Saturday, 26 April 2008

competition - day 1

a cruisy start to the day against namibia who we beat 15-0. benson lent a namibian a glove because he fronted for the game with a white glove and white stick [not allowed in the rules]. namibia seemd a bit confused by some of the rules and ref signals throughout the game.
timing displays/systems all to cock again like sheffield. do these people not think of testing these things in advance to make sure they operate properly?

we continued in a cruisy manner when we played the south africans later on as well and went down 2-3 despite playing 5 or 6 against 4 for the last 2 minutes. more cock-ups with the scoring/timing system meant the clock wasn't being stopped in the last 2 mins of game time [for infringements] and we were denied a fair amount of time to equalise the match.
also the start of the game was delayed 5 mins due to something in the video taping area. dunno what but it is the same problem that we had in 2006 - you'd think they'd have this sort of thing fixed by now.

this is billed as the premier uwh tournament in the world, but minor technical stuff-ups like timing problems make it very apparent that we are an amateur sport. it's galling when you realise that such things are avoidable problems with a little bit of operational planning. more galling still for the athletes who train like professionals and spend money like drug barons to get here and compete.

oh, and today was my birthday, thanks to the women's team for the card and the wine. thanks to all who said happy birthday and thanks to the guys for the lemon meringue pie - which they enthusiastically helped in the disposal of.

tomorrow's games = france @ 09h45 local [7.45pm NZ] & usa @ 14h45 local [0.45am 27/4/08 NZ]
french will be tough and confident as they beat south africa today. usa probably not quite so tough.

Friday, 25 April 2008

day 3 opening ceremony

usual carry-on at these things. someone is MC and introduces folks who have done good things to make the tournament happen and the odd local dignitary.
a group of children do something enthusiastic and mildy entertaining - this time it was gumboot dancing. lots of skinny white kids must be working in the diamond mines nowadays...
a walk-by intro of all the teams
then a group of seasoned performers came on and performed some zulu dancing - probably the best native dancing i've seen at one of these ceremonies.

at least there was no water-polo, or clowns jumping off a dive tower, this time.

best news of the day - all games will be broadcast FREE, LIVE on
downloads will not be free but video quality will be better than the live feed.
so, no excuse not to see our games.

first game is 11h45 v. namibia tomorrow = 21h45 25/4/08 nz time. we are playing with black sticks in pool 1.

second game tomorrow is 15h00 v. south africa = 01h00 26/4/08 nz time. we are black again, same pool as morning game.
set your alarm clock, it'll be a cracker.

day 3 practice

up and about early, but now i am sick as well as broke. i blame Pig: i lent him my sweatshirt at the freezing cold outdoor pool on tuesday because he had forgotten his. i decided it was better to risk me getting cold instead of a player. i now think i would much prefer him to be sick instead of me - after all i could go spend his money whilst he stays in bed, a much better state of affairs.

1 last 45 min practice session, coming up, this morning, then opening ceremony this afternoon sometime. maybe i can sneak out of attending ceremony claiming illness. not a lie, but i'm still ambulatory.

apparently our junior girls team played a couple of the elite women's teams yesterday and beat them. very promising. i know that one of the teams was the canadian women, can't remember who the others were. canadian women got silver in 2006 but the team they have sent here looks very different.

it's a big day of arguing and name calling here today for all the non-combatants. committee meetings and ref's fitness tests and all the usual carry-on that the players [and i] steer well clear of. due to recent political shenanigans at commission level, this year's name calling and back biting should be fairly epic. no doubt we'll need to call in a local shaman to lift curses and spells after Tristan and other mucky-mucks have gone at each other. with a bit of luck a few countries [not least NZ] will get their asses off the fence and get the pile of crap that is uwh politics resolved.

our new rental cars arrive this morning, and it's time, right now, to go climb into 1 and head to our last training session. i think we have everything covered already, so it'll be a light, lazy affair.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

day 2 practice

liam still crook, so still out of the water.
warm-up outdoors in sunshine - finally the weather is coming right.
we had a 15 minute game of 6 v.5, refereed most kindly by Pizazz - new world chief referee.
then we went back to dull old set-play stuff in corners and on the walls.

the guys have everything sorted now and when i ask them to practice something it comes right in a matter of minutes regardless of which personnel are involved. which is as it should be and my biggest hassles now will be who to put in and who to leave out of games.

day 1 practice

after some awful navigation by Matt, we got to clifton pool an hour after we were due there. the hour delay was my fault - i thought we were due there at 11, we were due at 10. Darren should have know better, he jacked it up with the locals.
we managed to get 15mins of game time against the local colts type team, the 'mad cows'. no idea why they are called that and not the masters women's team. hey, it's a different culture here and i'm just a go with the flow kind of guy.

pool temp was arctic. after 28+ degrees in singapore it was hard yakka and many of the guys were reporting racing heartrates every time they subbed into the game. at least they had done a proper warm-up. i jumped in from standing and spent 30 mins in the water spectating.

so after we thrashed the mad cows for 15 mins [cos they play as individuals, not as a team] we had a 15 min run against the colombians - the big improvers in 2002 & 2006 when they moved into the A division at the expense of GB [2002] and USA [2006]. luckily for GB in 2004 and USA this time, there is no B division due to low attendance numbers. but colombia re probably pretty keen to cement themselves in the top 8, this year, in case there are enought teams in subsequent years for 2 divisions or if entry to tournaments becomes ranking based.

for the first 5 minutes of the colombian game all the action was in our defensive zone and the colombians were unlucky not to score. a good breakout from a sub got us down to their end of the pool and we got thhe scoring started. then we got another very quickly and the colombian's heads dropped a wee bit. after that we had pretty much full control.

both games were good results. Liam, our goalie, is a bit crook and he stayed out of the pool, so we played both games with a makeshift goalie. Benson sat out against the mad cows and Ben had a rest when we played colombia. We also experimented with Andre at centre against colombia so rob could have a run on the wing. so both games played without our strongest line-ups and both were fairly convincing results. no goals in our bin at all.

off to kings park pool afterwards for registration, then lunch at the big mall up the road from our accomodation. guys went wandering about the mall after lunch. it was pretty dull without a wallet. John had a go at the standing wave flume, with mixed results.

naturally Matt's navigation skills had us completely stuffed and 2 mins from home he got all 4 cars back onto the motorway heading back to durban. another 15 mins added to a 15 minute journey.

scheduled practices tomorrow at kings park [competition] pool.

the entire programme for the comp has been bollixed by the very late withdrawal [thursday last week] of the zimbabwean masters team - who you may recall had already been moved into masters from the elite division. programme booklets had already been printed, so the poor organisers have a lovely colour booklet with a worthless draw in it. i can only assume that they are mightily pissed off at the zims.

by-the-by a local here told me that popular opinion holds that Mr Mugabe knows something about Mr Mbeke that Mr Mbeke would like kept secret. Thabo spent many years of anc exile in zimababwe and is a very good mate of Rob's. maybe their eyes met one evening, a high-five was mandatory, and mutually assured destruction will occur if either one breaks the code of silence. all pure speculation on my part.

on the road - episode 2

we flew out of singapore at 2.20am local time for 10.5 hours, mostly in the dark to joburg. everyone punched out for the first 5 hours or so. after that our bodies decided that no matter how knackered we were it was about 7.30 am singapore time and we should be awake. the discomfort of economy class seating certainly does not encourage sound sleep. also the flight was pretty bumpy in places.
best part of flight was about 45 mins out of joburg. we came through some high cloud and got bumped around a bit. as we flew out of the cloud bank we looked back and could see lightning flashes going off every few seconds in the clouds we had left. really cool to watch, but i'm glad we didn't see it until we were out of it.

arrive at joburg expecting african heat and getting 5 degrees. i was also expecting to change $600NZ into local currency. without my wallet, that's just not going to happen. shit. so i scamper back to the international terminal to find the singapore airtlines desk to see if the plane can be checked before it's filled up and flown away again. 15 mins hunting and NO singapore airlines desk. i go to lufthansa [also star alliance] and get directions to local handling agents for SIA. first desk sends me to second desk - which is helpful, but a bit hopeless. they know where the SIA agent has a desk, but it is in the middle of an area undergoing refurbishment and they cannot find site access. another 15 mins schlepping around the concourse. back to desk 2 and a chap there knows the way to SIA desk. 2mins later and a helpful chap on the phone to plane crew. 2mins after that and reply comes back - no luck.

so i am in joburg. i have no cash or credit cards. only 5 weeks to survive in africa without money. Liam owes me about 65 rand so i will not be destitute once i call in that debt. for the record $1NZ = approx 6 rand. i start to budget a spending plan of $2NZ/week for the next 5 weeks.

i still have my cellphone and all cards are cancelled before we leave joburg for durban [final destination for uwh].

Matt and Rowan get 5 min massages in those crazy water-jet massage booths in the departure area.
I spotted the argentinian squad slide through the domestic terminal, but all the others [who have money] are distracted by food and miss them.

on to durban. pilot tells us to expect 15 degrees. we get hosing down rain, about 10 degrees and no airbridge. 50 yard dash in the rain from the plane to baggage collection, then on to more, african-style, hassles.

out of baggage area to be met by local accomodation organiser [cheryl] who appears to be jsut about the most switched on person on the continent. our hire vehicles are in another town. well, of course they are - why on earth would we expect them to be waiting for us at the airport when we have already paid in advance for them?

Cheryl has already solved the hassle AND organised a van for all our luggage to get to our accomodation. this is good because we have 320kg of luggage and it was never going to fit in the back of 4 toyota yaris's. also we can follow cheryl to where we are staying, which is good too, because none of us had any clue how to get where we were going.

on the way the car Ben & I were in, driven by Pig, started to wobble alarmingly. the luggage van driver pointed out we had a flatty, so we wobbled to nearest servo and applied the pump. tire valve was stuffed, so we changed wheel and kept on going. rest of party and cheryl now long gone into the distance, but van driver said he thought he knew where we where staying, but he had been following cheryl too. we got here o.k.

accomodation is holiday flats for families which are rented out when owners do not want to be here. there is a swimming pool and direct access to the beach. an enormous shopping mall is 5 mins drive away. the pool is about 10-15 mins drive from here.

our rental vehicles are crap, but they are being replaced. getting them sorted has been quite a saga. but it's way too dull for a blog, even one as dull as this.

right, that's all the travelling out of the way. from here on in it's about uwh.

singapore experience - day 5

all up and ready to leave hostel on bus at 9.30 as usual, except all checked out of our rooms and about 200kg of luggage left at reception for the day.
pool was deserted on a sunday morning so i took the opportunity of having the guys do some 50m swims - sprints underwater in various forms, and then some sprint relays across the pool. i was hoping to get them all tired enough to sleep on our flight to joburg late tonight.

aussie juniors came sifting past the pool whilst we were there, but they didn't seem interested in a practice game.

after pool session, back to hostel for lunch and then guys shot off to do own thing. most went for a massage downtown and got fairly pulped by experts. Ben, Roobs, Pig & I went to the zoo. it hosed down, which was nice and cool and we left as the gates were closing at 6.30pm. despite it being a lovely zoo with fairly natural enclosures for the animals, some have quite clearly gone nuts in captivity - most notably the male white tiger and one of the polar bears. you know the drill - animal paces back and forth on a short walk for the entire time you watch it. eventually you move on in shame, because there is no apology you can make to the beast that it will understand or that would be sufficient.

dinner and showers at hostel [we got one entry card to general hostel showers and one by one 14 guys took a turn slinking away to the shower] whilst risk was played, books were read and emails were checked. departure for airport at 10.30pm, then all the usual drama at the airport. only 3 guys are found to actually have tickets properly entered into the system. also despite being the first people to physically turn up at the airport we are told it is a very full flight and we cannot all get window or aisle seats as we want. enquiry about how this situation can occur when we are first to check in is explained: check in began 48 hours ago, we are just about last to check in. thanks again to travel agent for passing on that helpful hint. oh well, another learning experience - we are learning a lot from our travel agent on tis trip.
guys mooched about the airport looking for distraction until the flight is boarded. i certainly got distracted by something somewhere in the airport or the boarding lounge, or possibly on the plane itself with damned annoying results. i'll go into that when i move onto part 2 of travelling, because that's where it becomes an effective nuisance.

singapore experience - day 4

saturday in singapore and traffic to pool much heavier, but still only 30 min travel time. more time spent on endless set-play situations and some quick game time.
warm-up has been adjusted to a daigonal swim across the pool in order to make distances swum = 25m [on the hypotenuse, for all you 4th form maths students out there. quick quiz: if pool is 20m across and the hypotenuse distance is 25m, what is the length of the third side of a right angled triangle? hint: square root of 225]

after pool session & lunch guys did their own thing for the afternoon. the young fullahs went to wild wild wet [a big waterslide park] and almost succeeded in being tossed out for not obeying rules. most of the older guys went to chinatown for a nosey about and a small few just hung around the hostel sorting out their messes for an early departure tomorrow.

in the evening dinner was a fend for yourself event. John and I went to orchard road to a food hall. after local dinner stuff, John decided [with some prodding] that he really should try to the local delicacy in a small pancake affair. Now durian fruit is very popular with the natives in a love/hate way. it is reputed [note - i have not tried the stuff] to taste delicious - although it is something of an acquired taste, perhaps you need to be born in the system - but, sadly, the price of the great taste is that it reeks like the bottom of an old wheelie-bin outside a takeaway. for that reason durians are pretty much banned from all indoor public areas, especially hotels, buses, cabs and the like.
John took one bite of his delicacy and instantly decided that it tasted like the bottom of a fly-blown wheelie-bin. was funny watching him rifle his wallet to hastily purchase some fresh pineapple to get the rank taste out of his mouth.