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 Confraternity Rugby League

XCC had 16 boys depart for Aquinas College Southport on the first Sunday of the holidays, along with Mr McQuaid, Miss Hogan and Mr Jones. We were joined by a young lad by the name of Frank McGregor from St Mary's Kingaroy along the way, which gave us a total of 17 players. Confraternity permits a squad of 20 players for each side, so immediately we knew that we would be asking a huge amount from our players over the carnival. It also placed us at a significant disadvantage in terms of dealing with and managing injuries. The format of the carnival involves playing 6 matches (3 pool matches + 3 knock-out finals) over Monday-Friday, with Wednesday a designated rest day.

Day 1 saw a terrific start for Xavier, defeating Trinity Beenleigh 24-10 and Holy Spirit Mackay 26-8, with both matches perhaps closer than the score line suggested.  Day 2 started with XCC drawn to play St Mary's Maryborough.  Unfortunately the boys took to the field like they were still half asleep and soon found themselves down 0-4.  About 10 minutes into the match our second rower Jarod Payne suffered a dislocated ankle and fractured leg, and the wait for the ambulance and time needed to move Jarod meant there was no more play and this was recorded as a loss for Xavier. This really shook the boys up and there was a dead silent bus ride back to our accommodation. After some time to clear their heads, plus a bit of a pep talk (Jarod was released from hospital and was able to make it to the match), Xavier then came out in the afternoon and defeated St James College, Fortitude Valley, 14-0. This match was a particularly physical one, with St James having a number of large Polynesian lads who hit very hard and ran the ball even harder.  The Xavier boys defended their line, often for long periods, with tremendous courage and in the end were able to grind down their bigger opponents. At this point after 4 matches in 2 days, we were down to 16 players with just about everyone suffering from a bump, bruise or injury of some kind.

For some R & R on the rest day the boys ventured to Dreamworld for the day, and joined the QISSN girls for dinner at the Northcliffe Surf Club in the evening.

On Thursday, Xavier was drawn to play Mt Maria College, Mitchelton in the Cup semi-final. It was apparent during the warm-up that the team seemed ready to play well, and they did just that, playing easily their best match of the year in beating Mt Maria 34-12. This was truly a team effort with every player shouldering a large workload. XCC had 1 player out with illness so played this match with only 2 reserves. Xavier led 18-0 however this was reduced to 18-12 and all signs pointed to the boys being overrun.  It would have been easy for the boys to surrender to the injury toll and throw in the towel, however such was their positive attitude and willingness to play for each other that they scored the last 3 tries and ran away with the match. Again there were a number of injuries sustained throughout the match, although players were reluctant to leave the field knowing the team situation, and a number played on when normally they would put their hand up to be rested.

Friday morning saw XCC play St Thomas More Sunnybank in the Cup final. During warm-up the injuries and illness from throughout the week caught up with us, and we were only able to field a team of 12, with seemingly every player carrying an injury or illness of some sort.  This was compounded when Scott Irving fractured his leg in the first half. The players gained enormous respect for even taking to the field with the high casualty toll, and again showed the pride they had in their jersey by playing out the match to the end, losing 22-6.

As coach it made me incredibly proud to be involved with this group of young men. I spoke to them before we left about the legacy that they would create for the jersey that they designed, and that legacy will always be defined by courage and resilience in the face of significant adversity. That they were willing to put on their jerseys and walk onto the field for their final says so much about their character and their belief in each other.  They simply went out to play for their mates.  There is an often recited mantra that when you leave on a Confraternity Tour you take away boys and return with young men, and this is certainly the case with this side.

To cap off the football side of things, out of 44 participating schools Xavier was awarded the QLD Referees Fair Play Award, which is one of the more prestigious awards offered at Confraternity. It signifies the positive spirit in which the Xavier boys played their football and their exemplary attitude towards referees and officials in their matches.

Finally, some huge 'thank yous'!!  Firstly to Angela Hogan, our Manager.  She took on both the financial management of the tour, both before and during the trip, and probably the more daunting task of feeding the boys while away. She did an outstanding job with all of this, not to mention playing tour guide, navigator, ambulance, counsellor and stand in mother. Angela's attention to detail off the field played a huge role in the performance of the side on the field.  Safe to say that the boys think she is the greatest, I'm not going to argue. Thank you Hoges!!

Also to Assistant Coach Jonesy.  Jonesy contributes greatly to Confraternity success in many ways.  His outstanding coaching of our XCC U/15's means that players coming into the open side are well drilled in both technique as well as attitude.  While at Confro, he spends most of each game on the field with water bottle in hand, encouraging players, keeping things positive and delivering messages from the sideline. He also provides 1-on-1 coaching before games for players that are new to the game, and on more than a couple of occasions this helped turn the result of matches.

Finally to Mark and Edwina Irving who stayed with the team as trainer and medical officer respectively. Edwina’s professional approach to tending and managing injuries enabled the boys to play to their best, not to mention the hours spent strapping and preparing the boys for each match.  Mark tapped in to his many years of rugby league experience, providing targeted advice for players on how to improve their game.  The tour would not have been a success without their help.

Tony McQuaid

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