England Senior Mixed win Gold at the Euros
Having topped the group in previous Euros and narrowly missing out on a gold medal to Scotland in Swansea 2014, Coach Wright and his squad were determined that this time around that they were ready to take on the challenge in the beautiful Island of Jersey. The goal, to win a gold medal for England, and once more be crowned the Senior Mixed European champions wasn’t going to be an easy feat with strong competition from a pool consisting of Wales, Jersey, France and Ireland.
The SMX squad growing older since the last Euros, Coach Wright decided to bring in some new younger players.
The last 9 months have allowed us to grow and develop together as an even tighter squad and new players integrated fully in to the team. We have lived and breathed the same thirst quenching desire to be crowned European Champions once more.
The input from Coach Wright with assistants Cropper and Cooky have ensured we could not have been better prepared for 2016 Euros both mentally and physically and this time around we had the support of Tim Osborne, HP coach whose knowledge and experience has been invaluable.
Travelling the length and breadth of the country to develop together, those early morning visits to the gym before work, the bootcamp weekend away that pushed you beyond that comfort zone you never realised you were in. The relentless hours spent away from frustrated loved ones who support you in your quest to be an international athlete. All of this preparation undoubtedly allowed us to cope well with stresses on the pitch and the sinking feeling when you're trailing in a game and the noisiest crowd aren't cheering for you. But somewhere in us all is that learnt ability to come out harder and step up our game and turn around our fortune. We had all been well drilled and prepared for these circumstances.
Our pool games saw some close fought battles against France, Jersey and Ireland who were all capable of topping the table. Many times we came from behind believing in ourselves and our ability to be winners. No-one’s final slot was assured and it was down to our last game against France to ensure our rite of passage on to field one on Finals day to play against Ireland who were sitting comfortably at close of play on Saturday.
The weather turned and down came the rain. The supporters were thin on the ground as they huddled under umbrellas and opted for dry areas under gazebos and tents.
Ireland fans braved to rain to get behind their squad. Suddenly a mistake on the pitch meant we were a man down and battling to hang on to the gold medal dream that was slowly sliding from our grasp.
We didn’t lose our focus or blame each other's mistakes. Our boot camp mentality and love for each other turned us around and we went back fighting harder for what we'd spent all these months preparing for.
At half time we grabbed a shirt and pulled together, knowing we had come from behind several times over the week and believed in ourselves that we could do it again. Back to 6 players we gradually clawed back our lead.
With only seconds to go and one TD up, we thought we had achieved our ultimate goal. As the hooter sounded and we waited for the last play call from the ref, we realised, to our frustration, that the referee hadn’t heard the welcoming sound attuned to our own ears. A score from Ireland and we were in to Drop off.
We wasted no time to ponder the situation and Tim called us quickly back in to the box. Time to refocus on what we needed to do and not what could have been. Captain Byron’s 5 psychological P’s hammered in to our heads.
The remaining drop off players dug deep and a score from Ollie Sills gave us the advantage we needed.
The D team scraped their last ounces of energy from their exhausted bodies and held the Irish out.
That feeling when the final whistle blew was indescribable. It will live with us always. This was one of the biggest tests of positive mental attitude we had ever encountered.
We had fought harder than anything for the status of European champs. Harder than we’ve ever fought before in any previous tournament to date and no one deserved it more than us. No one could take that moment from us.We live in our Touch world for only a brief moment in comparison to the rest of our daily lives, but our bonds amongst the Senior Mixed have become strong. Our team work and determination are what have seen us through the tournament and enabled us to come out on top. We are a family, we are one team. Grab a shirt, come in close, we are England Touch Senior Mixed!
Coach Wright, reflects:
"Firstly I would like to say thank you to all of you for your efforts throughout the course of the year and in the final week. It has been a very pleasurable squad to be a part of (again) and we have created a great atmosphere. It really is one of the most striking things about the England SMX squad that we continually create the sort of atmosphere which people want to be a part of. The mixture of maturity, eagerness, professionalism and fun that you all bring is the perfect balance.
"I would also like to say a big thank you to the guys who supported us this year. Cooky, Liam and Tim made my life at the tournament very easy and enabled me to concentrate on just playing Touch. For this I am very grateful. They deserve the gold medals every bit as much as the 16 players who earned them on the field and I hope you will all join me in thanking them for their efforts.
The Leadership within the squad was also a big factor in our success this year and I thank Gregg, Byron and Sue-Ellen for all they have done for the squad. Changing Leadership and Captains is not always successful but you guys took it all in your stride and made it a great success"