Thursday was going to be an “easier day” – at least it was on paper. All of the playing group were going to be doing community visits, leaving the day open for the rest of us to whatever needed to be done. Well, what needed to be done started with a gym session at 7am and continued on.
- meeting with the NTIS re cooling program for the players on Saturday night
- arranging the rosters for massage, physiotherapy for the players for the next three days
- finalising requirements for hydration for all of the playing group
- making a start on the rotation program for the game on Saturday – making sure to take into account the specific requests of each of the clubs for their players
- getting to the shops to buy some specific needs for the game
- going through equipment needs for the next three days
- going to the NTFL to discuss plans for the game – use of cool room; cool tubs; need for magnetic board; change room allocation; communication system; fans; bikes; ice; food; water….
- a number of meetings through the day.
Which all meant, by the time I had finished, the players were back and it was time to get to work!
The team doctor, Hugh Seward arrived today. Hugh is a very well respected doctor within the AFL, having served for 25 years as the club doctor for Geelong Football Club. He is currently the Executive Officer of the AFL Medical Officers Association and is also a member of the AFL Research Board. To date we had had no injury or illness issues to speak of. It was to be hoped that this would continue and we would not really need Hugh at all. However, it is always best to have a doctor on site – just in case.
Thursday evening was a special night for all those attending the camp. It was the AFL Boomerangs Graduation dinner. The Boomerangs is a young selected group of Indigenous AFL players whom have spent the past 18 months completing an Indigenous Leadership Course. It was also the night when the players participating in the All Stars game on Saturday received their playing jumper. Whilst both of these activities were enjoyable, perhaps the most significant presentation was that given by Allan Turner.
In December 2004 Allan’s daughter, Zaidee complained of a headache. The headache turned out to be a brain aneurism, and sadly, Zaidee lost her life. She was just 7 years old. I sat listening to her father speak with compassion, courage and love for his daughter so tragically lost. I wondered how I would cope with such a huge and unexpected grief in my life. For Allan and his wife, their immediate thought was to donate Zaidee’s organs. To think of others in a time of such loss is surely the true reflection of selflessness. Allan told us that “Zaidee had spoken to he and his wife several times, that if something ever happened to her, that she wanted her organs to be donated to others so that they had a chance to live”. He encouraged us to have that same discussion with our own families. “You never know…”
Some weeks after his daughter had passed away, Allan received a phone call from the hospital – not only thanking him for the donation of his lost daughters vital organs, but also to advise him that Zaidee was officially the youngest ever donor in Victoria. This set Allan to thinking. More lives could be saved if people became aware of this.
To raise awareness, and also to stand as an ongoing tribute to his daughter Zaidee I would expect, Allan and his wife started “Zaidee’s Rainbow Foundation”. The foundation raises awareness by asking people to wear coloured laces in their shoes. By such a simple act, people think about organ donation. Allan now spends significant amounts of his time raising awareness about “Zaidee’s Rainbow Foundation” and as such, raising awareness about a very important need in our community. Out of this tragedy, Zaidee and her benevolence live on. Allan’s final request was for the players to wear the coloured laces in the All Stars game versus Adelaide on Saturday night. It was a moving and thought provoking presentation. (You can read more about Zaidee’s Rainbow Foundation at www.zaidee.org/index.php)
Training on Friday was scheduled for 9.30am. The session was fast and direct and the intent of the team was obvious. Given the smaller stature of the All Stars team, speed was going to be the most potent weapon to attempt to defeat the Adelaide Crows. With training finished the players were free until later in the afternoon – that was all but two, Andrew Lovett (Essendon FC) and Richie Tambling (Richmond FC). Both had been selected to do a promotion for the game by being lowered in a Perspex box into a crocodile enclosure. I decided to go along to see what happened – rather than talk about it, I have attached some pictures of the day. Given that the croc was about 10m long, I didn’t really envy them!
At 5.30pm both the All Stars team and the Adelaide Crows attended a function at Darwin’s Parliament House. It was a good opportunity for more game day promotion and to thank the NT government for their support of both the game and of AFL in the Territory in general. As we left the function, the rain started. It was torrential, tropical rain. And it just kept on coming. It was good to get back to the hotel. If the weather was the same during the game, it was certainly going to be a low scoring affair.
Game day arrived and the first activity was an activation session. This consisted of a team walk, stretch and pool session. From that point it was free time until departure for the game later in the afternoon. With final preparations, the afternoon slipped by pretty quickly and before we knew it, we were in the rooms at TIO stadium getting ready. Everything was as one would expect at an AFL club – team meeting with the coach; strapping; massage; individual needs; team warm up; final talk to the players; final warm up; pre game functions and then – game on!
One of my key roles during the game was to monitor the rotations of the players. Each club had requested different game time for their players; some even asking for specific rest breaks. I was determined that, as practicable as possible given the constraints of a game of AFL, that we would adhere to the club requests. Given the fact that the team numbered 30 players, it was not really all that surprising that I saw very little of the game. What I did see though, was a fast and attacking game of football. Almost from the opening 5 minutes of the game, the intent of the All Stars was obvious, and despite tropical rain falling intermittently throughout the game, the All Stars beat Adelaide 14.13 (97) to 6.7 (43) at Marrara Oval.
The paper the next day reported the coach of the Adelaide Crows, Neil Craig, as saying: “It was an eye opener in terms of speed. That’s an unnatural AFL side; you’re not going to come up against that too often.”
What this team did on Saturday night was highlight the natural sporting gifts of indigenous Australians. With greater opportunities for pathways into the game being set up by the AFL, more and more indigenous Australians will play the game at this level in the near future. Whilst Neil Craig may be spot on about the fact that it was an eye opener in terms of speed, he may not be so correct in thinking that teams will not come up against that type of speed too often. Perhaps, this game is a harbinger to the future of footy?
On Sunday morning at 10am a recovery session was held at the hotel pool. All players were checked over for any injuries by the team doctor and physiotherapist. Fortunately, we were able to send all players back to their clubs with no injuries. Further, all players had completed training requirements as requested by their clubs and had played the requested time allotments of their clubs.
By lunchtime we were flying out of Darwin heading for home. Jason Mifsud and Corey McGrath (both from the AFL Players Association) had done a great job in pulling this camp together. It had been a huge success. It can probably be best summed up by a comment from Richie Tambling (Richmond Football Club). We were standing by the carousel waiting for our bags to be offloaded from the plane. Richie was asked if he had enjoyed the camp and game in Darwin. “I loved it” he replied. “Actually, I would get on the plane now and go back and do it all again if I could! It was great!” Enough said.