The end of a very long week here in Vancouver and we fly back this evening. It has been a really interesting tournament in so many ways but perhaps the most significant thing to take away from it is that pretty much any of the top 6 teams are in the reckoning for London. The USA must still be the favourites as they came here without two of their top players and after some shaky games still managed to take the Gold from Canada in the final 56-53. This was the same Canada that earlier beat Sweden in the last minutes by 1 point and yet we beat Sweden in our last match of the tournament by 63-47. Japan is also looking very capable and in the first round actually beat the USA and of course Australia is as strong as ever with Ryley Batt as dominant as ever. The final table was: 1. USA 2.Canada 3. Australia 4. Japan 5.GB 6. Sweden 7. France 8.Belgium. From a GB perspective we still have lots to do to get into that medal position and the next few weeks in camp will be very valuable. There were some good performances though from individual players with Andy Barrow fully deserving his award as the best 2.0 in the tournament and Mike Kerr unlucky not to get the best 1.5. Steve Brown, Jonny Coggan an Kylie Grimes were also all firing well but we still need to get more out of this team and that will be the focus of the coming weeks. Back now to packing…………
I am not very good to adjusting my body clock after a long flight and I usually only start to feel good again when its time to catch the flight home! Anyone one very small advantage of this is that it allows me some odd time to catch up on things I want to do which is why you are getting this blog from Vancouver which I am writing at 0350 in the morning having woken up! I am here of course for two things. The first is the IWRF General Assembly which starts 0900 in the morning and which lasts for two days. I did alert you to the resolutions being discussed and I have had one response on the Stickum proposal from Pirates so thank you to them. After the Assembly the Canada Cup starts and this will provide us with the very best performance opportunity ahead of London which is now rapidly closing up on us. The great thing about this tournament is that it is less about winning and more about using this as an opportunity to really put to the test much of what Tom and his team have been working on since the Test Event. It also provides the chance to compete against all of the teams we will meet in London.
Can I also remind you about the AGM which is ahead of the start of the National Championships on Friday 29th June at 7pm. We have arranged a buffet dinner at 6pm so hopefully you will be able to move from that straight into the meeting. Only Members can attend the AGM and the papers for the meeting have been posted on the site and you should also have received them. Opportunities for your own resolutions closed on Friday 15th with none received but there is still an opportunity to put forward AOB providing proposals are received by 1200 this coming Friday. Only AOB which has been received within this timeline can be considered at the AGM and this is in line with our Articles of Association. A printed copy of the Annual Report will be available at the AGM and this highlights the work of the past year as well as pointing to the key areas of attention for the current year. An electronic copy of this report is now on the website so if you want to have an early look it is there to see. Much of the content of this report will be discussed by the management team when we present to you at the AGM and there will be an opportunity to ask questions about the report.
Finally, well done to Crash on winning SS3 and well done to the DMG who seem to have worked hard and agreed the new competition structure for next season which is great. And if you want to see anything of the Canada Cup – all games will be webcast live with a link also from the canadacupwrugby.com website. GB opens the tournament on Thursday with the first match against Japan starting at 0930. Now back to bed for a couple of hours and hopefully some sleep…..
Well Saturday was quite an amazing day because as the guests of the premiership rugby club Saracens, the GB team put on a short exhibition before the start of the title game with Harlequins. It was an extraordinary occasion, not least because the game drew a record crowd for a club match – over 83,000! While the team demonstrated some of their skills in front of the crowd, our Captain, Steve Brown and I gave pitchside interviews for Sky and the big Wembley screens showed specially edited wheelchair rugby coverage, which C4 had provided. In the background, Kirsty Clarke, supported by volunteers from Coloplast, her rugby club and GBWR supporters all went shaking their buckets and managed to raise £1,286 for club funds – not as much as we would have liked but this provided us with some good lessons about how we might fund raise in the future. Saracens, with its community and family focus has much in common with us and we are both keen to develop our relationship further. In addition to the GB squad, Saracens has aligned itself with the London Club, and on Thursday last week, some of their players attended a London training session and got themselves on court – quite a sight to see some of the big guys squeezing themselves into rugby chairs!
Meanwhile the Coloplast Super Series has kicked off in Kent with West Coast Crash drawing first blood to head the table after the first round. The series moves to Cardiff for the weekend of 12/13 May. Attention is now firmly on the Test Event which is now just 2 weeks away and promises to be a really exciting occasion for everyone. Many of you will have tickets to see some of the top teams in the world performing and also to experience the Olympic Stadium more of that next time. So for now, I hope that you and your loved ones have a very happy Easter and get lots of easter eggs!
Good morning! Am blogging this from the train en route to Stoke Mandeville where the squad is training today. It will be good to see the team as I missed last week’s matches with Poland as I was flat out trying to complete our UK Sport funding submission to cover the next 4 years. As much as I love being near the action, my real focus has to be to look ahead and do the best I can to ensure the strongest possible position for the future of the sport. At the moment that means presenting our best case to UK Sport, Sport England and potential sponsors with the aim of securing future funding. I think we have put together a strong first submission to UK Sport and this will be looked at over the coming weeks, with more work to be done after the games and UK Sport’s final decision on funding at the end of the year. Along with Kirsty Clarke I am now about to start on the Sport England submission and will be seeking the views of many of you on what you want to see happen over the next 4 years. Early thoughts for us are to focus on growing our player base, rolling out our youth programme, supporting the development of our clubs, putting in place a structured coaching programme and really investing in our development squad and talent identification. If we can do all of this between now and 2016 then we really will set ourselves up for a bright future. Do email me or blog with ideas you may have and be sure I know what it is that you want for your sport…..
I have no doubt that I suffer from, what’s it called?, seasonal affective disorder, I think they call it – and I have to say I am getting tired of the cold and damp weather and the dark early mornings which often see me catching trains in cold miserable stations to get to the next meeting. There are some rays of sunshine seeping through though. It’s not quite as dark any more at the end of the day, and there is certainly a warm glow in London as the Olympics and Paralympics get ever closer. As I write this there are now just 201 days to go to the Paralympic opening ceremony. Along with Kevin our Chairman I attended the LOCOG update this week, the last one to NGBs before the games, and I really got a sense that we are now on the final lap. For Head Coach Tom and the team this is both exciting but a concern as the squad has been suffering a spate of illnesses over the past few weeks and this has limited the sort of training that has been possible. Tom will be hoping to try to catch this up quickly as there are some key performance opportunities on the near horizon. Poland join us at the end of the month for some joint training and competition at Stoke and the Test Event is in mid April. For those of you who have asked for tickets for this, LOCOG have assured me that they will be able to confirm allocations in the next week. I hope by now that some of you will have met Kirsty Clarke who has joined us in the Head of Operations role and she is now trying to get around to clubs as well as putting the finishing touches to the Super Series tournament which kicks off in Kent on 17 March. Thanks to all of you who through your DMG representative voted for our Paralympic torchbearer. I now have our nomination which has to be passed to the BPA but I hope very much to be able to announce the result soon. What I can confirm is that I am confident the person will be a popular choice and I was particularly pleased with the result as it recognises someone who has done a great deal for our sport – another ray of sunshine to cheer me up!!! Bye for now.
So 2012 has arrived and we begin the final quarter countdown to our home Paralympics with the opening ceremony just 238 days away as I blog this. I hope you all had a great Christmas and that 2012 arrived in style. For me it was party time in my Cornish village and a traditional swim with villagers in the sea on Christmas morning, followed by plenty of fine port to warm up! My 3 year old twins kept me pretty busy with all of their new toys and I have managed to have some good workouts at my local club so I am feeling pretty good to go again. We have continued to get some fine coverage over the Christmas period and in particular you may have seen the C4 spot we got where I was interviewed about funding and where there was some great footage of the GB Cup in Cardiff. Again wheelchair rugby was singled out as the game to watch not that there are any spare tickets for the Paralympics as they are all sold out. On that subject if you do have tickets you don’t want then remember that it is a criminal offence to resale tickets on the open market but you can resale through LOCOG between 6 January and 3 February go to http://www.tickets.london2012.com for details. There will be a lot to communicate over the coming weeks so do keep your eye on my blog and on the website in general so that you don’t miss out. In the next few days we welcome Kirsty Clarke into the team as Head Operations and we restart squad training at Stoke on 17 Jan. Don’t forget to vote for your torch carrier – see home page of website. The successful person will be selected by the DMG on 7 February so make sure you get your voice heard. I will also be giving out news about how you can get to see the Test Event in April. So have a great start to 2012 and stay in touch – add any comment to my blog or email me and use your DMG rep.
Here’s to a very successful 2012