2012/CW37 Euros Treviso MXO12.09.2012
Tour Manager Report - Swiss MXO at the Euro Touch Championships 2012
Touch rugby in Europe is dominated by the UK and Ireland, which together hold the top six ranking positions in elite?level mixed d touch rugby. The rest of Europe comes a poor second. Switzerland, for example was seeded ninth.
Saturday - Driving
I caught a train with Matt the Ref to Zurich. Once there we met Olivier, one of our physios, at the assigned meeting spot near the post?office. Nick arrived shortly after and we waited for Steve to arrive in his own car. Steve duly arrived and we all worked to shoe?horn Olivier into what space was left on the front passenger seat of Steve's over?stuffed car. Matt and I got into Nick's car and we all headed off to pick up The Grommet (Irene) at another train station.
On reflection I can say that the drive to Treviso was mostly uneventful, but we found much to amuse ourselves. Steve and Nick engaged in various iterations of motorized horse?play. We annoyed other drivers. We spent some time sitting in a very long car park before The Big Tunnel. Even so, being a nervous passenger I was mostly in a state of worry. For example, I was very nervous to observe Nick's extreme multitasking while driving. This involved texting, playing with an ipad, arranging speakers on the dash, cursing at his radio and staring fixedly at photos of an under?dressed woman on his iphone. Of course there were brief periods when he was quiet and merely driving, his unblinking gaze fixed on the horizon and his responses monosyllabic. This calm in Nick also made me nervous. I very quickly realized that we were at the mercy of a madman. Matt and Irene having sex in the back seat did not worry me nearly as much as Nick driving his car like a distracted fighter pilot.
Also we sang the team song, which was Good Feeling by Flo Rida. A lot. Nick had been practicing pretty seriously and there would be no getting out of it. Oh I had a feeling alright, but it wasn't good.
After arrival at the hotel, which was a very high?toned establishment indeed, I learned I was rooming with Olivier. He and I checked our stuff into the room and then joined a growing swarm of Swissies at the restaurant next door. We met Murray & Eunice, Creedy's parents, who had flown all the way from Australia to watch their boy flog Switzerland to the top of Mt Touch.
Sunday - Training day
After breakfast we drove east to some fields to have a day of training. Beautiful weather and very warm. My job was quite easy. All I had to do was solve problems. First I had to go and buy some water for the team. Then the ladies wanted me to find some toilets. Pretty simple stuff. It was nice to sit in the shade with Murray and Eunice and just watch the team train. This was the first time I saw them doing this and it was quite an education. Creedy talked, cajoled, insisted, demanded, laughed, and like everybody else he also ran and ran and ran. For hours they busted their guts to match Creedy's expectations, and he clearly expected a great deal.
Monday - Venice
In the morning we drove down to Mestre and caught the local train into Venice. This was to be a team? event day. At Creedy's prompting I had put together a kind of treasure?hunt and Creedy dreamed up some physical challenges. We broke up into groups of four or five and dashed around Venice looking for bridges, buildings, boats and bloody great big towers. Nick, who has an unfortunate predilection for photo?bombing, found a kind of paradise in St Mark's square. Right now there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of tourists combing through their photos of Venice and wondering just who the hell is this guy making faces behind my wife? After following Joel's team around for a while I retreated to Harry's Bar to see if they would serve me a Death In The Afternoon cocktail (invented by Ernest Hemingway, who was known to hang out there). They didn't so I settled for a Monty instead (very, very dry Martini). By mid?afternoon all the groups had got back together at a restaurant and I held court to see which of them had done best with the treasure?hunting and physical challenges. They were all very good, but Sandra's group won by a whisker and Steve celebrated by smashing a table. We left pretty quickly. Dinner was had somewhere else in Venice.
Tuesday - Training day II
Back on the training fields Creedy put the team through its paces. Over and over again they would run specific patterns. Creedy talked constantly. It was a warm day. The Swiss Mens team were with us and were training on a nearby field. If I wasn't running an errand I was filming and photographing with Nick's camera. Nick had also climbed a tower and installed his GoPro to get some video of the training from above. This was an important aspect, as Creedy made heavy use of video review to tweak the team's performance throughout the tournament.
After lunch back at the hotel we were supposed to meet up with an Italian team to have a friendly game of touch. But some of us got horribly lost and no amount of telephoning or GPS was helping. At one point we ended up back at the hotel. After an hour in the car to no purpose I decided to get out and do some reconnaissance around the hotel instead. The team did eventually find the Italians and played their game, but I missed it.
The opening ceremony was held that night in the old town after the team managers' meeting. This was pretty cool and was a bit like a mini?olympics with the teams marching in their colours through the town. We got to shake hands with the mayor of Treviso and there was an opera singer too. Fun!
Wednesday - Game day one
The team drove to the competition fields out at Villorba. There were hundreds of people milling around. It was a carnival of touch rugby. Games were in progress. The weather had changed abruptly to overcast and cool, which seemed to be perfect for the sport. We found our section of the big teams tent and set up. Then I ran around like a blue?arsed fly trying to keep up with stuff that had to be done. Walked around endlessly trying to find a nearby pharmacy and a shopping center. Players needed water, sport drinks, bananas, and anti?bug spray. The physios had set up and were strapping some players for the day. The first game was coming up and the team went into a routine that I would soon become very familiar with. Warm?up, training moves and patterns, Creedy talking and getting everybody into the right mind?set. There was no mistaking that the intention was to bloody well win the tournament. Switzerland was going to storm Europe in its entirety, wreak havoc and leave a lot of nations dazed and bleeding in defeat.
The first team we played was France, ranked 7th in Europe and looking pretty confident with their first match?up with puny Switzerland. France was expected to be pretty tough. Very healthy rugby culture, lots of touch clubs yielding a large pool of talent. They could be forgiven for considering this game as no more than a warm?up to the more serious ones they would face later on.
The Swiss team, however, were also confident. We can take them was the general feeling. When the game started, it was immediately apparent that this was not mere posturing. The French found themselves being put to the sword right from the tap. Switzerland got the first point and from then on the French were always trying to catch up.
In defense, everyone was shouting instructions at everyone else. For example, Nick was giving positional updates every second as he subbed on and into position. "Coming behind you Sandra!" then "Coming behind you Claudia!". Then he would shoot down an oncoming drive. Barney shouting rapid fire on who he's got and how he's got someone's back covered. Steve bellowing to pull corner, pull corner after making a touch in front of the line then bouncing back to hammer down a last?ditch diving attempt to score. Piston defense. Shut down. Squeeze. Making attack up the middle so difficult that the opponents are forced to throw wide and wild. Even then chasing it down in a race for the corner. Over and over, right on our line, pushing back wave after wave of ferocious attack. Just barely making the touch time after time. Total commitment. And that was just the defense.
If the defense succeeded in holding them out and reclaiming the ball there was a complicated yet highly coordinated series of immediate substitutions as our defenders used the first one or two touches to rush our sub?box and let attacking specialists take the field. Within one or two seconds of getting on somebody, often David, was given the ball and tasked with the job of outrunning the opposition, who had been dragged towards our sideline, back across to the opposite sideline. Having forcibly wrenched the opposing side back and forth across the field, our mids then drove the ball down?field for one or two touches, trying to open any gaps or force an offside penalty. Even without forcing a penalty, this would still leave us with one or two touches to break through their line. To lead these attacks we could call on either Mike or Creedy and it was paying off pretty nicely.
Indeed things were going so well that we were 5?2 ahead inside the first ten minutes. The French were reeling, but they rallied and came back at us. By the end of the half the score closed to 6?4. The second half was less good. It took five minutes before anyone scored and it was the French, closing the gap to one point, their defense was looking very solid too. Dave put on a touch solid enough to knock the wind out of one of their mids and this got them a penalty. The resulting drive, against Dave putting in a couple more heavy touches trying to slow it, ended in another try for France and the scores were all tied up at 6?6. Around the ten minute mark Joey nipped in for a jinking score, putting us back in front. But within a minute of that the French had replied with another point of their own. Towards the end Jen was looking to catch a pass from Mike in the clear with the line right in front of her, but the ball slipped from her grasp and I uttered the now infamous "Oh Jen". That was it, both teams were defending too well and the game finished at 7?7. The Swiss were very disappointed, very down on themselves, certain that they should have won. France had barely escaped a surprising loss, and more than a few were looking back over their shoulders at us as they left the field.
It was uncanny how badly the team took this non?loss. James led a sullen warm?down that was punctuated by muttered griping about poor play. Poor play? If anyone bothered to ask me I expressed the thought that it was bloody amazing play. Nevertheless, as the skies darkened with an approaching storm so did the Swiss mood. On the way back to the tent and the physios, blood oaths of vengeance were sworn. No mercy would be shown to the next opponent. Ireland, who were ranked 4th and probably rated Switzerland not at all, had just thrashed Switzerland's mens team 14?2. Their mixed team was to play us at just after three in the afternoon. While a draw was unacceptable, a loss was unthinkable, the team closed ranks and made ready for the approaching conflict.
The Irish started with the ball and drove forward. Quickly we were caught with a penalty on our line for being offside, not a great start. Nevertheless Dave succeeded in catching a loose Irish pass and got the turn?over. Just as the rain started to fall, Conor got on the field, took the ball and managed to slip through a gap. He raced down field and gained us an extra thirty meters before getting caught. Creedy and Mike worked the middle but the ball went down and we lost momentum. As the Irish pushed back up to our line the rain started to intensify. Again we were caught offside right at our line. A couple of touches later an Irish player made a good dive and they got the first point. Conditions worsened, the wind picked up and thunder rolled over our heads. Both teams were dropping the ball. Soon the heavy rain turned into a monsoon and it was getting hard to see anything. I had to stop filming and get back to the tent which was flooding. Gear had to be lifted onto tables and Creedy's parents worked hard to help save all our stuff from the encroaching water. With that done I headed back out into the storm and back to the field where I learned that the scores were deadlocked at 2?2. Water was inches deep everywhere. Running players were literally leaving wakes as they fought for advantage over the sodden field. Right on the buzzer, Dave made a spectacular dive for the Irish line. Enveloped by a huge splash the waters closed over him and he disappeared momentarily under the surface of Treviso's newest freshwater lake. Somewhere down at the bottom Dave grounded the ball for what was surely the wettest try in the history of touch rugby. When he broke the surface and started swimming back to our box the Swiss contingent roared its collective approval.
The referees were conferring about what to do. While the rain had lessened the grounds were absolutely flooded. It was not clear that play could go on. Creedy insisted that if the Irish wanted to continue the struggle then Switzerland was up for it. But the event organizers had determined that the day's play had been ended, sometime later we learned that the second half would go unplayed and we had won our first victory of the tournament. Pandemonium broke out in and around our tent.
We had dinner with the men's squad at the Bufala restaurant beside our hotel. Laundry was a big issue. The hotel had no facilities for dealing with laundry and it was something I had especially dreaded. Dean had his boys bring their laundry to the restaurant. It was determined (incorrectly) that the launderette I was to find and use was closed. So the laundry would be done in the early morning (this was made possible because the next day's play was to be postponed until after lunch). I was assigned one unfortunate member of the men's team, Steven Blondin, to help me. Christina supplied the washing tablets.
Later we got together in a conference room to the video review. Filming the play was my job and while I consider myself a decent photographer I'm terrible at cinema. All too often a lot of the action was taking place off screen. Especially anything which happened on the wings near a try line. Furthermore, I was making less than helpful commentary which was being picked up by the camera's microphone. Not entirely my intention. Much hilarity ensued.
Thursday – Game day two
While both teams slept in, I went and did the laundry with Steven. Young Steven had been sponsored by a number of other squad mates, so he was being subjected to a kind of hazing. Doing the laundry with me was part of this. The poor bugger had also been daubed with lipstick and fingernail polish. It was fairly simple, despite all instructions being in Italian, and we were back well before time to distribute out the clean kit.
After lunch the teams drove to the fields to watch games and get ready for their respective matches (both teams would take the field at 5:10pm, we would be playing Guernsey). While the physios got to work unknotting muscles and taping bodies, Christina and I collected water bottles, booked ice baths, shopped for cheap powerade, bought plantations of bananas and ran errand after errand to fulfil individual player requests.
Finally, our games were coming up. The mixed squad began their warm ups and pre?game drills nearly an hour before the tap. I did my usual firefighting approach to management, which works but is probably the worst approach there is. On the positive side it gave me lots of exercise as I marched back and forth for water, bananas and insect?repellent. Occasionally I would bleat out how much time was left to the game. The T?minus ten minutes pee break seemed pretty important.
I don’t remember much about the game against Guernsey. Haven't seen the video of it. But we won 8?5. The team was very pleased and very upbeat as they went to do their post?game warm?down.
While the team was warming down I jogged back to the tent to pick up some more water and I discovered a very somber scene. The whole men's team were sitting around with their heads in their hands in apparent desolation. According to them they had lost against Italy. Wow, I didn't think their play sucked that much! Quite sad. It really killed the buzz from our victory over Guernsey. However it was all just an elaborate wind?up. The men had won against Italy and were just having us on. Of course, the men would suffer tremendous drubbings from all the other teams. But they would beat Italy again on the last day, and thus avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.
Meanwhile, the teams packed up and headed back to the hotel to celebrate a good days work. Being very lucky indeed I got to do the laundry for the second time in a day. Not as bad as it sounds really, because humans make me nervous it was good to spend some time alone.
Friday – game day three
Our first game of the day was against Italy and we beat them, but not by the large margin we had hoped for (final score 9?5). They put up more resistance than expected. Mike put in another storming effort, getting four tries for himself.
Our second game was against the so far unbeaten Wales, who were being led by a giant mutant who had scored most of their tries (Gareth). We started with the ball and drove it forward, ending with an attempt by Mike to hit Irene on our left wing. Unfortunately he did just that and the ball smacked her painfully in the face. She still managed to control it and we got some sort of penalty. A few touches later and Mike strode over the line to claim a try largely unchallenged. We were in front 1?0! The Welsh drove back at us and came within a whisker of scoring out wide on their left, but the winger couldn't ground the ball properly. The game see?sawed for a while, sweeping back up and down field without result for a good five or six minutes. Then Gareth managed to take advantage when Nick made a rare mis?step at the line and the Welsh drew level at 1?1. However, our very next drive ended in a fast try and we were back in front at 2?1. We then held them out for a while but couldn't get into their half and they eventually managed to put a link through to draw level again at 2?2. Our subsequent drive saw them take an intercept and it took an almighty effort from Mike to chase it down just before our line. Nick and Barney took the field to lead the defense. Nick got right up in Gareth's nose, stopping one of the big Welshman's famous diving tries and then grinningly sledging him. Unfortunately, Gareth then threw it to a girl on the right wing and the Welsh had scored again to make it 2?3. However, a few minutes later we had worked it back down to their line and Mike took a neat snap from Creedy over their line to score. Level again at 3?3. The Welsh got back at us on their next drive, 3?4. We replied and got Sandra over the line on the left wing, but the refs called it back as a forward pass. Then we would soon fumble the ball in front of our own line and the Welsh would score again, 3?5. Soon the half was over.
Though the Welsh started with the ball we regained it without loss and managed to eke a penalty out of a hard touch on Connor. Fittingly, Connor would get the subsequent try and we clawed back to be within a point, 4?5. We held Gareth out by a whisker on the follow?up drive, but on the last touch he sent out a long hail?Mary to a girl winger with golden hands and they scored, 4?6. They scored again on the opposite wing a few minutes later, 4?7. But then Tia would make the reply, taking a long ball from Mike on our right wing and scoring an easy touchdown, 5?7. Not long afterwards, Sandra would be denied a similar try and then we would be penalized for offside. The Welsh made a long drive and then used that golden?handed winger again to very nearly score but the pass was forward. We didn't have the ball back long and before we were defending once more in front of the line. Then disaster struck. Nick made a heavy touch and was sent to the sin bin, we were down to five players against six. Predictably, big Gareth took advantage of this and scored almost immediately. We were at 5?8. It looked like we were going to be punished pretty badly by being one player down.
However being five against six seemed to be no trouble for our attack. Dave got through on our next drive, 6?8. We got Nick back and were at full strength again. Alas, that bloody great Gareth snaked in for yet another diving try, 6?9. That was the final score, the last eight minutes would sweep both teams up and down the field for no further result and we had lost to the Welsh.
As disappointing as that was, we still finished second in our pool with the unbeaten Welsh first. Back in the tent we worried about the Grommet and her nose.
Saturday – Game day four
We had made the quarter finals and were lined up to play Jersey.
This was a pretty frustrating game and we lost it, 7?10. We finally got a more experienced referee, but we had trouble adjusting to that. Previous refs were fairly forgiving with the five meter rule, but this guy was considerably stricter so we suffered a great deal from offside penalties. Also, he penalized Claudi for not tapping the ball correctly (i.e. he didn't see it). That was a genuine WTF moment, but overall I think the main problem we had was adjusting to the new, larger, five meters. Mike brought the team back after the first half pointing out that we had defended in front of our line something like three times as often as Jersey had to and we were still only one or two points down. The story did not change after that though and we went down. It was a pretty hard loss to take, particularly when we learned that Jersey lost their next game against Wales (who had lost against England by a point in their quarter final).
Later that afternoon Ireland would bear the brunt of our frustrations and we would hammer them 13?4.
That night, the team had dinner in the old town. Thankfully, they stayed out long enough for me to join them after doing the laundry. That was a lot of fun too, at least for me; I put away half a bottle of red on my own.
Sunday – Game day five
Our final game was against friends. Germany had been ranked twelfth at the beginning of the tournament, and like us they surprised the hell out of the teams in their pool by making the quarter finals. This game would determine who would get fifth place.
It was hard fought, but we were in front for nearly all of it and it finished 11?9 in our favor. Sandra had a blinder and scored a hat?trick on the right wing. That was it; the tournament for us was over.
We watched the rest of the finals and lots of the prize giving ceremony and then, after returning to the hotel for showers and a court session, came back to the tournament grounds for the after?party. The court session back at the hotel was lots of fun, everyone gathered in Mike's room for him to adjudge the penalties. Fines were handed out for all sorts of things (e.g. send?offs, we had three of those!). Some of them were a little harsh, for example I was fined for not scoring a try!? We forced Connor to sing a song with Sandra, an act for which each of us earned an implacable enemy for life.
I didn't last long at the after?party, bowing out sometime after midnight to help guide Tia and Cynthia to the last free bus back to the hotel. However, I did get to see Jarrod and Sandra get re?married by Matt the Ref and Captain Mike. I think Creedy, best man, even managed to fashion a ring out of some foil. We got Connor to sing again. Hell, everyone was singing. Lots more happened but I wasn't around to see it, sadly.
Monday – Driving home
After a fairly lazy breakfast, Nick hounded me, Matt the Ref and Irene into his car and blasted off. We played eye?spy (which I suck at because I am blind and I dont know any nouns) and then discussed where to have lunch. We did this in Como, which I had never visited before, and that was pretty nice.
Overall, I had a great time and was very glad to be included on the squad.