Royals hit the water to build team bonding
By Gary LambertLast Weekend saw the England Royals Women’s Open squad convene for their final preparations before heading to Edinburgh for the inaugural Premiership Permit Tournament next week. All three England Women’s Permit Squads met in Nottingham alongside the Men’s Knights and Royals to put finishing touches to this season’s campaigns. Well supported by a strong contingent of ETA Referees the squads were all able to play full match practice through to drop off. All three women’s games were closely fought contests with all squads playing a fast and open style of game play. The development in the Women’s game was evident, with significant gains even since the previous All-England camp at Welbeck. The matches certainly demonstrated the high level of competition that can be expected in Edinburgh as the three England Squads face off against Permit teams from France, Ireland and Scotland.
Having chosen to utilise the Sunday for final squad training and a chance to polish and fix any last minute concerns following the matches, the Royals journeyed a few miles down the road to stay at the National Watersports Centre at Holme Pierrepont. Here they enjoyed an evening of mayhem on the water as they donned wetsuits, lifejackets and helmets and took to the whitewater course for some rafting.
The next two hours saw the team take to the rapids, paddling hard against the currents, getting soaked through and put through their paces by the raft guides who made them all work hard.Having finally squeezed into the wet suits, ensured they were actually wearing them the right way round and sorted life jackets and helmets, attention turned to the obligatory safety brief. The team focussed intently on the raft guide, more intently than at any training session throughout the entire campaign...perhaps it’s the fear of impending doom and a watery end that brought such focus and in particular silent attentiveness from this group of Touch players!With the team split into two boats, the first run was a more gentle and sedate affair as the crews learnt to paddle and use their weight to control the boats. The smiles and laughter were soon to be replaced by screams as the second run brought more mayhem and thrills, with the guides upping the challenges and excitement. With the boats pitching and rolling it was only a matter of time before one boat or another lost a crew member. Unsurprisingly it was Charlie “Pav” McFarland who opted for the cooling water of the Trent as her post Touch recovery session.With subbing buddies lost over the side, the team-mates bonded as they helped drag their team and crew mates back on board to complete the course. The second boat had been growing in confidence and energy, with Aaron, their Chilean guide, steering them hard into to the rapids. Eventually the rapids claimed not just one player but the entire boat and crew as Coach Gary Lambert was first to be thrown from the boat. In a show of unending solidarity and teamwork, the remaining seven members of the boat chose to join him as the entire boat flipped. Water was swallowed, screams uttered and as the coach bobbed to the surface he could only watch as half of his players drifted away into the distance down the sunlit Trent. As he swam to the bank, their coach was left to ponder three things... would they all come back; how many did he actually need for the tournament and just how inpressively they were bonding as they clung to one another for dear life!With all players accounted for, showered dried and full of the joys of life; dinner was definitely not for the nutritionists' eyes, but a day of Touch and rafting builds an impressive appetite! Sunday saw thetTeam welcome the first sunrise of their newfound lives and a short video session at the hotel before a final training session at Nottingham Trent University. Skipper and vice-skippers were announced as Jen Palmer and Sammie Phillips respectively. As the final session closed our attention turns to Edinburgh and the Premiership Permit tournament, it is fair to say the England Royals are as ready as can be and more importantly as close a team as a coach could wish for after their shared hard work and experiences through the season.
Thanks to the team at the National Watersports Centre, and for Alex Wilkinson for taking the great pictures you can see on the ETA Facebook page by CLICKING HERE.