Behind the Whistle

Shelley’s Touch Referee Blog Entry:

So what a year 2012 has turned out to be! To say that it was a long season is to say the least – but at least we always had the highlight of the season right at the end … the European Touch Championships taking place in Treviso, Italy.

England was fantastically represented by 10 accomplished referees:

  1. Cece Cheog
  2. Sarah Porcelli
  3. Uma Ramaswami
  4. Shelley Grace
  5. Bruce Lockie
  6. Shane Hills
  7. Tom Bedkowski
  8. Chris Whalen
  9. Stephen Dubreuil
  10. Robin Wylie; and
  11. David Bennett (late withdrawal due to injury)

This group of England Referees were joined by almost 50 other referees from Europe (including the odd referee from Australia and New Zealand – who just happened to be in town).  The 60 strong referees were split up into 6 smaller referee teams and were ready for what was to come over the next five days.

Day 1:

Little did we know, day 1 and the rain was to come!  Just a little shower as the rain started to come down sideways, kit up or stay kitted up as this will pass is what the lucky ones (those who weren’t caught out in the rain) were told.  So for some of us, we were kitted up for about 3 hours while we waited to hear if our game were going ahead or not – some warm up that was!!  Common sense prevailed and there was no more play today.  Let’s try again for tomorrow!

Pre Day 2:

So a sleepless night for many as the draw was re-structured, revised and restructured again, and our massive thanks and appreciation goes out to TOM BEDKOWSKI for saving the day!  His amazing Tournament Control skills and capabilities were put to the test and this time the whole of Touch Europe, every player, coach, referee and every other person who was present, came to know what us English already knew – this guy is good!  Tom, Tournament Control extrordinaire, the Tournament Control guru, made magic happen – and we all, players and referees a like want to publicly thank you for that!

This lead onto referee allocations, my guess is that they were done, changed and changed again – so it was another (there were many before the tournament had even begun!) sleepless night for the referee panel.

Day 2:

Rumour quickly spread … games aren’t starting until noon today.  It was a mass of disbelief that such a thing could happen; it was the Euro’s after all!  But once again a few wise people had some sense to think how the fields might hold up for the rest of the week if they weren’t rested and the water allowed to drain.

Games for day 2 went off without a hitch and even better news – there were no injuries to report in the referee base camp.

Day 3: Hump Day

Day 3 traditionally known as Hump Day – we were at the midway point.  This was going to be a tough day on many counts.  Tough for those referees who were attending their first major tournament and it was also going to be a shock to the system for most as it is the first full day of competition with all timeslots being played!

But in true referee spirit, we just got on with the game.  There were games going on out on the fields and they needed us, so off we went!   The experienced amongst us, rallied the troops, gave first hand experience, explained that it does get better and tomorrow you’ll feel as good as new and kept the momentum alive.

The first full day also signalled the first really long day – breakfast at 6:15am, bus was leaving the hotel at 6:50am and bus leaving the grounds in the evening at 7:15pm.  There were no complaints, as whom would you complain too?  We were all in it together and there were still a couple of days to go.

Day 4:

Hump day over and now we were straight into the business end now.  I’d say by this point, nearly every single referee had been watched by nearly every member of the 6 strong referee panel, been coached, been assessed and had their good games and not so good games (obviously when the panel were present – Murphy’s law and all!) and above else, had learnt so much by this point.  We were all going to leave as better referees.

So it was another full day, with an early start and a late finish.  There were extra games to cover as the injuries had started to creep in, but spirits were high!  We had moved on from hump day – we were coming around the bend towards the home stretch.

Day 5:

There was a buzz of excitement and anticipation today, lots was to happen today.  Last games, play offs and finals and some big announcements to be made in the evening and then a party to attend! Party!!

Wrap up for the week:

A non drinking fine session was held every morning which always provided plenty of laughs and got people off to the games with a giggle and big smile and each individual secretly hoping there would be no big bloopers that anyone saw that would land them in amongst the fines the next day!

The ref base camp was a social place, a serious place, a place to stretch off and ice bath, to mentally prepare for your next game and debrief from your last, and a place to dump all your stuff to allow you to spend as much time out on the fields and amongst the action as possible.  The gym served its purpose and we loved it!

Us England referees, we weren’t known or labelled as England referees, we were all known by our first names (or nicknames that had been bestowed upon us) and we belonged with fierce pride to our own referee teams and at the same time under the banner of being a Touch Europe Referee!  We came together as one as at this tournament your country didn’t matter, you were neutral.

I’d like to congratulate all England Referees for the work undertaken at the Euro’s and in the lead up to this tournament; you did yourselves and country proud.

Special recognition and Congratulations:

Receiving a Finals appointment (and a ranking in the top 21)

  • Bruce Lockie
  • Chris Whalen
  • Shelley Grace

Badge Upgrades and equations into the European referee system:

  • Chris Whalen – to Level 4
  • Shane Hills – to Level 4
  • Shelley Grace  – to Level 4
  • Sarah Porcelli – Equated to Level 3
  • Stephen Dubreuil – Equated to Level 3

Level 1 course presenter:

  • Uma Ramawsami

Level 2 course presenter:

  • Shelley Grace

This European referee team was strong and out in force at every opportunity!  I’m pleased to say that I was one of them!  England’s contingent of referees was simply amazing and Touch Europe Referees were all the better for having each and every one of you there!  Well done everyone.

Photo’s courtesy of Marc Rosenstiehl and Sylvain Charras – our resident referee photographers!  Thank you!!

Shelley Grace

Drop Shelley an email (shelley@englandtouch.org.uk) if you’d like to be part of the refs team for 2013. Also, keep up to date with the refs monthly newletters too: http://www.englandtouch.org.uk/index.php/refereeing/refereeing-updates/

 

Bruce’s Touch Referee Blog Entry:

‘You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me …. But you will.’

This was the start and the conclusion of the iconic Adidas poster that was launched before the Olympic Games; which a few of the England players put as their Facebook status before the Euros.

In a sport that has lots of its stats publicised, you only have to look at our NTS to know the top scorers & MVPs, so outside teams already knew the strong players in their categories.

However, there was one team that limited information was known about, a team of over 60 men and women, people that had been training for years, not months. They have worked hard individually, and pockets of them collectively, they had proved themselves in the local park touch to national representation, but the Euro’s were the first time that many of them met each other, let alone stepped out on a touch field together. This team represented at every final, every 3rd and 4th place play off, even the seeding games that happened the day before the finals on the far pitches away from the crowds of 3 or 4 deep. In a game where stats are recorded; touchdowns scored / assists made, there was one stat that wasn’t recorded, how many times the whistle wasn’t blown. We wanted the games to flow, we acted to facilitate the game, not to impose ourselves on it, and we saw blowing a penalty as a failure on our behalf instead of an advantage being played to the players.

 

This team was the group of European referees.

As a member of the referees that was selected from the England Touch Association, we collectively had a solid campaign. We represented on the finals day in three of the seven finals, with three of the ten ETA referees gaining an upgrade to the next badge level, as a result of their performance over the tournament.

This hard work of the referees doesn’t come over night as all of the referees that attended the European Championship on behalf of the ETA have been refereeing for at least 3 years each. Although this process of referee development does take it’s time, it also creates the foundation that touch is played within England and I would like to thank the ETA for their support to all the referees at the European Championships this year.

Bruce Lockie

 

Cece’s Touch Referee blog entry:

Paper plates and ice baths

One of the first predictions, from a referee’s standpoint, when Italy was voted the nation of choice to host the 2012 European Touch Championships (2012 ETC) was the fear of a rapid rise of organised chaos – leading to tardiness, questionable efficiency, and debatable on-field temperance.

In some eyes, though, a bout of grumpy realism isn’t a bad thing.  So be it if it meant that certain referees had to assist the organisers with last minute contingency plans when it did rain.  After all, we Brits are used to extended spells of crummy weather.  But that’s not a bad thing – there was no Euro disunion apparent and the sun soon brought a show of form.

So what became of the 2012 Euros in Italy?

Despite the dim weather forecast, Italian Touch showed what it was all about when the sun did reappear – against a backdrop of ancient beauty, slight messiness served with great enthusiasm, immense national pride, and dare I say it, culinary delight in the form of tuna pasta, risotto and bread.  And for those who found the hole through the fence behind Pitch 2, a sneaky trip to the gelato shop.

Other memories include the intriguing opera singing during the opening ceremony; Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” – you have to admit, by the end of the tournament we were all bobbing along to the tune; the PA recording of “Playeeers and Refereeees…Please tek de feeld” of which I understand Touch NZ and Touch AUS are soon to experience; the infectious player and referee support for one another; praying hostage to the mosquitoes; the dinky medals won and lost – for the referees the immense delight in their upgrades; the swaddling of K-tape round most players come finals day; the desperation for a free portaloo during the after party; and, a general consensus that the hard work put in meant that a few scoops of gelato were well deserved.

It is quite frankly difficult to analyse an entire five days’ worth of Touch in Italy.  It did, on one hand, give pause for thought about what might have influence on the outcome of a successful European Touch Championship.  Strict direction is not, however, necessary to produce a modest but effective international tournament.  The 2014 ETC in Wales has a lot to live up to though in a different context.

Perhaps the question we should really be asking ourselves is: “Why do we love this sport called Touch?”  For me it’s passion for the game and everything associated with it.  That includes seeing if your paper plate floats whilst standing in a murky water-filled ice bath.

Cece Cheong

Thanks to everyone involved

This has been my first year at the helm of the ETA and it’s been a very busy, eventful and enjoyable year too. I’d like to extend my thanks to everyone who has assisted in us achieve our 2012 goals.

Elite Selection

We had a new structure in place this year for our elite selection, new policies in place and a way of attracting lots of new players through the pathway. Thanks to Dante, Dave and Tom for their hard work on this.

Regional Coaches

With the new structure, this also meant a bigger workforce was required. A huge thanks to all the regional coaches, most of them player coaches, who did a sterling job in creating their franchises and coaching newbies and stalwarts alike.

National Coaches

Dave, Tim, Noel, Ben, Chris, Ted, Jon, Mike and Jeff. A great season for all the national coaches, taking their national team to every final available.  Your work ethics and tireless work in developing your squads is a credit to you and the organisation. Building blocks for the future have been firmly set in place.

The Players

For doing what they do best. Playing with heart, passion and dedication. Your medals were well and truly earned and deserved.

Managers

A big thanks for all the team manager for organising, planning and chasing, to ensure their players had nothing to worry about other than their game. Special mentions to Helen and Georgia, for going above and beyond too when it was needed.

Medical Team

A whole team was interviewed and selected on pure ability and diversity this year. Led by Cari, the team had their own training sessions over the summer months, going on courses and learning new skills in preparation for the Euros. Their pre tournament advice and input was second to none, input and taping during the tournament and the hugely reduced injury rate speaks for itself. A huge thanks from all of the players for the team.

Backroom Staff

Usually the people who do the most and who are left unmentioned in the speeches. All major events, like the Euros, need careful planning and budgeting for them to work, it shouldn’t be underestimated how much work it involves to organise a tour for 140 people to another country. Hotels, finances, planning, chasing, implementing etc has been done behind the scenes by a small number of people. I’d personally like to thanks Marnie, Zoe, Ryan, Will, Jules and Eve for their assistance in making this, our best tour to date!

Referees

Again, usually an area missed when it comes to thanks. A huge well done to Shelley, in all she’s achieved in her first 12 months as NDR, the referee development in England has taken off dramatically, from local league referees, to the elite. Each country were requested to take 1.5 refs per team, and with England taking 8 teams, finding 12 refs was a huge ask. The only way to further develop the game, is to have higher level referees to officiate the games, so this is a very important stepping stone. Great work on your achievements!

The Committee

Thanks for all your support over the last 12 months, it’s been a great year, with lots of changes and positive steps forward. Without these guys driving it forward, we wouldn’t have the opportunities we have today, to play the sport we all love.

Well done again to everybody involved in the 2012 Euros campaign, European champions 2012!

 

Thanks

Gregg Cropper

England Touch – President

 

 

 

England crowned European Champions 2012

The European Touch Championships is the largest touch tournament in Europe. This year’s edition was held at the Lancenigo-Villorba sports centre from the 11th to the 16th of September, at the very gate of the City of Treviso.

Fifteen European nations were represented and a total of fifty teams in seven categories of play (Men’s Open, Women’s Open, Mixed Open, Senior Mixed, Men’s 30, Men’s 35, Men’s 40) were present. More than 800 athletes together with 80 referees from various European countries and further afield participated.

England made the finals in EVERY possible grade.

Finishing with 3 gold and 4 silver medals to be crowned 2012 European Touch Champions. What an awesome campaign, a huge well done and thanks to everyone involved!

England elite squads proved too good for fellow contenders, as they drew on points in the Opens category (coming a close second to Scotland, as the Scots won 2 divisions). England won the Senior category and the overall European title. England took the Women’s Open, Senior Mixed and Mens 35’s titles, along with silver medals in all the other categories entered.

Visiting FIT reprsentatives said that the intensity and skill sets of the Men’s Open was a credit to the development of European Touch as a whole, and clearly demonstated how far European nations had come.

Senior Mixed take the GOLD!

Back Row (L-R) Jon Lovell (Player/Coach),  Will TenBroeke, Simon Clare, Jose Luis Dias, Dan Holland, Martin Wright, Joel Buchan, Jason Grace, Gregg Cropper.
Front Row (L-R) Rebecca Yousefian, Kate Hyde,  Julie Walker, Tamsin Openshaw Julia Kang, Sarah Rosenburg, Joelene Hughes
Manager: Ben Powell. Physio: Emma Knott

 

It was only a matter of a few months ago that the mixed 30s squad hardly knew anything about their fellow team members, with a total of 7 uncapped ‘tour virgins’ in the team and 2 players making moves from other England teams, so meeting each other and then quickly gelling together was the first aim. The team was a contrast of novice players, having only played to a competitive level for a couple of months let alone make an international debut, to the good ‘old timers’ with numerous England Caps, who were quietly confident in their ability to guide the new ones through.

The senior mixed division had 5 teams entered, and so a double round robin was the format. England entered the tournament as favourites, with a strong Welsh side being their main threat.

It wasn’t long before England was on a roll.  They faced hosts, Italy, in their first game and within seconds had scored their opening touchdown. They continued to clock up their tally as the TD’s came thick and fast. They claimed their first victory against the home nation winning 14-1, a great start to the campaign.

In game 2 they faced Wales, who put up a great fight and attacked England hard.  A 5-5 draw at half time stirred them from their comfort zone. A quick team talk and analysis of the first half was done in the break and England fought hard and proceeded to win 11-7.

England were able to relax slightly when they met Ireland in game 3.  They didn’t concede a score and won convincingly 10-0, confirming their status as division favourites.

England’s first meeting with new-comers Luxembourg was a one-sided affair with the team racking up more TDs to come out with a massive 22-2 victory.

Moving into Round 2 of the fixtures and England kept the victories coming: a 7-1 win over the host nation followed by a more confident display against Ireland, winning easily 12-1.  Game 2 against Wales was again a tighter affair with England battling through again with a strong performance to win 9-4.

The final game of the pool stage was against Luxembourg who, by this point, had suffered a few injury problems but agreed to battle through to field a team for the game.   True to the spirit of the game England used this tie to develop players  in other positions with the male team members taking to the wings and the girls holding fort at mid.  England were kinder to Luxembourg and won 15-0, but credit to Luxembourg for improving throughout the tournament and playing hard to the end.

England had easily topped the group stages.  Going in to the semis at 08.10 on the final day, England was quietly confident.  They faced the Irish again and a win was expected.  The squad were keen to try and top their previous result and play their patterns and set plays consistently well in preparation for the final.  The score finished 14-2.

And then came the final

This was the match that had been on the cards, written from the start, the game everyone had predicted.  A clash of the big guns.  Wales had everything to gain and nothing to lose coming in fresh as the underdogs.

The refs for the finals were: Sarah Mason (Scotland), Matthew Boesen (Switzerland) and Shelley Grace (England).

The Welsh planned to attack hard and drive fast from the start as they had proved they were capable in their first match against England. The Welsh anthems were bellowing from their aroused fans, the Welsh were buzzing. They pulled on all their strength and skill and managed to get out in front.  This had some of the English spectators (and players) worried. At half time it was tense, 4-4, a scoreline which England had faced before. Undeterred and with an inspirational team talk at half time, England had a true fighting spirit..

They had the passion needed to fight back.  There was no way after coming so far through the tournament without losing a game, they were going to fall at the last hurdle. They would not settle for second best.

England proved fit and strong. The Welsh were weakened by the English determination to succeed.  Gradually the scores came.  By the final whistle, England had claimed victory, winning the gold medals, winning by 10-7. A great and well deserved result!

Over the course of the competition, the senior mixed squad managed to clock up a record breaking 100 touchdowns.

It has to be said that the senior mixed have proved an exceptional squad.  They pulled together with true team spirit and encouraged each other throughout. There have been some excellent demonstrations of skill and prowess by individuals but these could not have happened without the supporting play of others.  Well done to you all!!

Notable mentions:

Top scorers:

The teams top try scorers were Martin 16, Julia 15 and Gregg 14. The highest 3 scorers in the division.

 

MVPs

Well done to Jose and Rosie for being awarded the MVPs by the opposing teams

 

and to Julia and Gregg for being voted MVPs by their own squad.

Thanks

A big thanks to our team manager(s) Linda Adamson and Ben Powell for their organisational work. And to our team physio, Emma Knott, who kept the team fit and injury free throughout the tournament.

And finally a big thanks to Coach(es) Jon Lovell and Martin Wright who put in lots of time and effort to prepare the team.

It should also be mentioned, that Coach, Jon Lovell, managed to be the only player in the team to be told his nails were too long!

The squad are looking forward to the 2013 Home Nations in Dublin and hope that they can continue their excellent reputation as being the best senior mixed team in Europe!

Silverware for England’s Men’s 40s

This year was the culmination of 4 years of effort by the Men’s 40s squad.

Four years ago the first 40s squad started on the road, but lost heavily to all the teams at the 2009 Home Nations. The next two years, the England Men’s 40s team showed more promise but still didn’t deliver. Nevertheless, the fruits of all that effort came this year. The lesson learnt was that – success is not built in a day. Hard grind, teamwork, practising and persistence got them there.

The pool of seven was toughly contested, with Wales, the highest placed European team at the 2011 Touch World Cup, coming second from bottom after the pool rounds. Many of the teams faced had recent recruits from the “young-uns” (the over 35 squads) but not England, in true 40s style, virtually every game they played was an audience pleasing cliff hanger.

After a difficult start in the pool round, drawing their 1st game to Italy and losing their 2nd to Ireland, the lads had lots of work to do to make it to the top spot. Day 2 wasn’t much better, drawing against the Welsh team 5 each. By day 3, they started turning it around, with 2 good wins against France and Luxembourg, securing them a top 4 place going in the knockout rounds.
Meeting the Irish team in the semi finals, the team they lost against in the TWC playoff and that they drew with in the earlier rounds and who topped the group stages, the M40s team had to dig deep to make sure of silverware.

They had made it to the final

Being drawn against a strong Spanish side, a team they drew 4-4 against the previous day. The valiant Men’s 40s team won a silver medal, losing 7-4, but savouring the sweet taste of recovering from a poor start and beating the top two teams in the pool stages (Ireland and France) on their way to the final.

All in all, it was a fantastic effort, ably led by player/coach and captain Jeff Bimson, a huge thanks goes also to the teams manager Kirsty, assistant coach Steve and physio’s Dave and Peter. The team is also very grateful to those who helped get them to the finals, all the previous squad members and last year’s coach Stan Barkhuysen. Most of all, they dedicate their success this year to the memory of their first coach and leading player, Simon Yarrow, who died last year. It was a tough, moving and important moment for all as a minute’s silence was held for Simon before one of the games. Simon’s commitment and joy gained from playing this wonderful game of touch, will be a precious memory to all, and the crew were sorry that not to be able to share it with him this year.

The squad had a great tournament and are confident that they can go one better in future years and come away with gold!

Congratulations to top scorer for England, Piers Mitchell with 6 and MVP’s Jeff Bimson and Ian Moody.

 

Oxford ‘Bonfire’ Touch Tournament

When: Saturday 3rd November
Where: Gosford All Blacks RFC, Stratfield Brake, Freize Way, Kidlington, Oxford OX5 1UP
Cost: £TBC
Categories: Mixed
Contact: bonfire@oxfordtouchrugby.co.uk

 

Washout Wednesday

In true English fashion, this blog is about the weather. We woke up to a perfect morning of Touch weather, overcast and much cooler than previous days. Game faces were being prepared, looks showed a mixture of nervous excitement and some apprehension.

Nerves soon melted away and smiles and celebrations could be seen around the England camp, as team after team shared their good results. Perhaps the other nations prayed for rain so they’d have more time to prepare to take on the might of England. Or perhaps the Italian gods dished us out a bit of home, whatever it was, come afternoon, the heavens opened. We found ourselves in the middle of a monsoon. Pitches started to resemble paddy fields. Flood water flowed into the tent, luckily England were at the top of the hill, others, however, weren’t so lucky.

Games had to be abandoned, others delayed and some cancelled altogether. The momentum of the morning came to an abrupt halt, and for many the waiting began. We didn’t let that dampen our spirits though, in the camp, the EMO boys showed off their Abercrombie poses to their self proclaimed theme tune, One Direction’s ‘That’s what makes you beautiful’.

So, as we all do sun dances in our rooms as we go to bed, we are sending out special thanks to all the organisers who will, no doubt, be up all night rescheduling games.

 

 

 

Euros Day 1 – Opening Ceremony

Treviso, Italy – home to Benetton, appliance maker De’Longhi, bicycle make Pinarello and now Wikipedia will have to add another fact to this impressive list, host city to European Touch Championships 2012!

The 200 strong England squad, along with fourteen other nations, descended on the city’s main square. There were whoops, cheers and lots of flag waving as the teams snaked through the cobbled streets in the old town for the opening parade. It may not be the Olympics, but this was our moment: we waved at locals, posed for pictures and tried to explain the game of Touch in pigeon Italian (which concluded in pointing the puzzled stranger to the Italian contingent).

Team Italy lined the square to greet each nation after being officially welcomed by the Mayor of Treviso, Gian Paolo Gobbo.As the sun set, we needed no excuse to tuck into mountains of carbs, pizza, pasta and lots of it. As opera singers belted out a tune, talk turned to the tournament…

Good Luck England!