Living like the Lions as they go back to school with Brisbane training
THE Lions had some keen Australian visitors after training on Thursday.
Thankfully, not pals of Robbie Deans with covert video cameras. These young men actually had a right to inspect the squad, as the men in red had invaded their patch.
Clad in long shorts and knee socks accessorised with a traditional wide brimmed Queensland country style “Akubra” hat, the boys of Anglican Church Grammar School in Brisbane’s eastern suburbs have a proud rugby heritage of their own.
In fact only eight years ago two of the Wallabies most high profile absentees for tomorrow’s first test matchwere still wearing the distinctive uniform.
Churchie as the school is unanimously and affectionately known in Queensland had a first XV back in 2005 that has gone down in legend winning the state premiership with Quade Cooper and David Pocock, the stars of the show.
The school’s head of rugby Jason Gilmore expressed a great sense of disappointment that the school’s most recent Wallabies will not be facing the Lions in Brisbane, “we were shattered for David with a season ending knee injury” and on the controversial Cooper, “Quade, we are biased for, we really love Quade! If he works hard we really hope he can make it into the squad at some stage in the series.”
The coach described both players’ talent at schools level as “freakish” and that Pocock was “was exceptionally focused, a real leader amongst the boys, always looking out for the others”. Where as the schoolboy Cooper was“just what you see; enigmatic, entertaining, even erratic but a tremendous fellow, what people don’t know about him is how much he helps other people, giving tips to youngsters when he trains at his local club.”
It is strange to think that the Lions are training on soil so linked with the enemy. In the absence of their old boys, the current Churchie students have really embraced theirvisitors as Gilmore says, “they have just loved having the Lions here, however, obviously being a massive tour and leading up to the first test, the Lions have to be quite private but yesterday they opened up their afternoon training sessions for the boys, it was really good for the boys and staff to get photos and autographs.”
“Brian O’Driscoll was the man amongst our boys, Tuilagi coming off the back of a big Six Nations was popular and obviously they all wanted to meet Sam Warburton as captain. Actually our boys would be quiteknowledgable about Northern Hemisphere rugby, Paul O’Connell was also a big favourite.”
“When the players had their gym sessions, all our boys were looking in through the gym window at the Lions, it caused great interest.”
It was not just the boys of Churchie that have been keen observers apparently the Lions made quite a splash with the female staff members during their recovery sessions in the outdoor pool and today the chaplain complete with collar was an unusual addition to the assembled pitch side media.
It is Churchie’s impressive facilities that have won them the prized company of the touring side not once but twice in the past fortnight, this week and before the match against the Queensland Reds.
The press can be a tough a lot to impress but a few were overheard saying, “I wish I had gone to school here” upon seeing the palm fringed pool adjacent to the immaculate pitches and a gym that most leisure centres would be proud of. There were also barbeques on site for the boarding pupils. You cannot get more stereotypical Aussie that!
All this, however, comes at a price, as Anglican Church Grammar is a private school. The excellent sports grounds are funded through a combination ofcontributions from fees and donations from the old boys’ network.
To the side of the playing fields, there is a large shipping container in which the Lions management had transported their own weights and exercise bikes.
In fact the Irish might be to thank for this stop at Churchie as Ireland made it their training base during the Brisbane leg of their 2010 summer tour to Australia and New Zealand with Gilmore remarking, “I think they gave us a good report when we put our hands up to host the Lions.”
“Churchie has a had a bit of a history with hosting touring teams. We are extremely lucky with our facilities that everything is extremely close from the gym to the pool to the field.”
The All Blacks have previously trained here and this coming August the Springboks will prepare at the school campus ahead of their Rugby Championship clash with the Wallabies.
It would seem there is something in the water at this school as it is also the alma mater of Lloyd McDermott, a prominent figure in Wallaby lore as the first Indigenous player for the national side in 1962 and is also Australia’s first Indigenous barrister.
Here is hoping that perhaps the two missing Churchie Wallabies along with perhaps some of the school’s magic rubbing off on the on the Lions will help them to create their own history in the coming weeks.