The eve of the comp. So this was the grouping in our grade...
Really similar to the groups from the last worlds in 2016, funnily enough the top 3 seeds in each group remain exactly the same, but of course some countries are returning (Portugal among others and JAPAN who we last saw in 2006 and got a standing ovation at the opening ceremony for making it back to Worlds). Do the groups have contrasting play-styles? Some thought yes. Which one was the tougher? Was one a group of death type thing? Time would tell.
We were starting to get to know our way around a wee bit by now. Apparently according to the map provided by the organisers below, P (methamphetamine) is obviously just as much a problem here as it is in other countries, but we didn't see any dealers in the areas they marked out or any obvious drug use at all in fact. Around this time our drivers were coming to grips with the free right turns on red lights. But was Brendan just making this rule up? I still don't know.
Map of the Pool surrounds
Map of complex
I mentioned people using their down-time messing around modifying their gear earlier. Well, here are some specific examples of the little things people customize when given hours of time with nothing else to do...
These are attached to the end of the guard and hook into the bottom of the earpiece to add a bit of extra security and stop any movement of the end of the mouthguard. Hinders being able to talk easily though... a big plus for any mouthy members of a team likely to back-chat the ref. This one isn't a mod I make use of but some people feel incomplete without it. We will have these little fellas available shortly on our site.
This is foam cut into a hoop and glued onto the inside of the earpiece. Helps cushion impacts, reduce chances of an ear injury, just be a bit comfier. Jake Hocking invented this as far as I know, and also has a large piece of padding glued into the top of the cap like a mohawk as he has a slightly small head and likes the cap to be tight. Also he is quite tall and walks into the tops of doors so this must help there too. If you scratch the surface up glue will stick best, superglue or hot melt. This really makes caps super comfy, I am a big fan.
Some makes of caps have earpieces where the 2 parts aren't fully welded together and can pop off with impact. You can finish off the weld properly with a hot screwdriver or similar.
That little bit sticking through needs to be melted and squished
Lots of players get by with finger loops these days but for test-matches you want to be sure you're not going to be losing your stick. This is the Lanyard I use...
Avoids needing a hole in the middle of the stick (which I used to do with wood when I was a teen), it's clean, and you can leave one or two fingers out for a bit more movement, or keep them all in if you have a wandering finger and need some help keeping it on your stick. The cord itself is 3-4mm elastic bungy cord, very easy to make yourself or you can get them here.
Trimming foot pockets
New backup fins for some people need a bit of trimming to fit just right
Regluing composite fin foot pockets
Superglue is in high demand around our accommodation, and not just for the fumes.
Nah just kidding, but 10 years ago this was probably the biggest thing you had to worry about with everyone having wooden sticks!
Sarah put a blindfold on and practised for hours until she could reassemble a popped lense from a Sphera mask in 15 seconds without catching any of the annoying seal bits in the frame, this is a skill she has perfected and it always comes in handy tournament time.
Jesse started putting layers of strapping tape on his knees as soon as we arrived so by the time the comp started he already had 5 or 6 layers of protection, but of course the velocity of those knees hitting the tiles just can't be denied and he still ended up with cuts every game.
We are finally at the first game!
ROUND ROBIN GAME 1 - CANADA
Canada. I first saw them play in 2000 at my first Worlds in Hobart, when half of them had these funny long thin sticks like boomerangs... kinda like this but thinner even...
I had never seen anything like that before, totally weird. But they were so aggressive, they blew us away in the RR game and our coach Tim couldn't get over things like this
Which is pretty snazzy huh, the roll sideways to bounce off the wall?
The Canadian 2000 team was amazing, they had 7 guys returning from the last squad in 98 and that's always powerful to have so much carry-over between comps. There was a guy named Faycal who was totally awesome somewhere in their backline, and their forwards were fit and fast and just ganged up on breaks and did massive damage. Their semi-final against I think France was crazy because they had a guy sent out for the game in the first half(?) and still made it very very close, I think it might have only been a goal in it in the end before France went on to the final. I heard the guy sent was done for headbutting while swimming dolphin kick but I'd love to know the real story actually if anyone knows the exact details.
2000 worlds. The most mad worlds ever, possibly. There was that controversy in the mens Semi. There was the Turkish team turning up for their first worlds ever, having played Uwh for 3 months and getting all their stick designs off the internet with gear like this...
The Turks all couldn't believe it when they saw a puck lift off the bottom of the pool.
There was some tactical innovations from the Dutch that literally changed the game where they held the puck in their own corner all game and only broke to attack together when they were ready. This instigated the introduction of the corner rule afterwards, and was nuts to play against, especially when you're a young fella at your first worlds with brain not engaged, which was me.
There was the amazing goal-bin tangles, with only 2 refs and lets be honest not at the level of the refs of today, some teams just stopped the puck with their hands or picked the puck out of the bin, which caused the attacking team to throw everyone onto the corner of the bin to prevent this, ditto defenders until no-one could even see the goal and the play looked like a big tangle of legs. Gutted I can't find a screenshot of this as I only had copies on tape.
And then there was the team from Moldova, who all turned up for a warmup day with $20 yellow snorkling sets, splashed around for an hour, and then disappeared and were never seen again, having successfully smuggled themselves into Australia.
So anyway, that was a great and very unlucky Canadian team. Some years later only 2 of them were left when we had a practice game against them before the 2006 comp, and things actually got so heated with fouls the Canadian coach pulled his team out and cancelled the practice. We should really have had some refs, in hindsight! Later in the comp though they found themselves in another crazy game vs the Dutch in a playoff, at 4-4 fulltime.
They had come back from 2-4 down to equalize. During extra time the Dutch eventually got up 6-4, but the game ended in the last couple of minutes with a frenzy. I remember looking over from the other court where our game had just finished and wondering what on earth was going on.
Excitement aplenty, 3 vs 2.
By 2018 there was one player remaining from that 2000 team (Richard Andrade) and a bunch of young enthusiastic talent, and they were playing at their home comp which is a huge boost for motivation so we didn't know quite what to expect. They had been trying out a 2-3-1 setup for the past couple of years with a very regimented wall focus in the Hawaii competition. How much would that relax in a deeper pool, and as they had developed further in their team pattern?
Benson made Gunny and Brendan waterboys for this first game, 2 of our most experienced players. This dropped all our young debutants right into a test-match on day one and they were fizzing for it as only young fellas can fizz.
We managed to get on the front foot early and put in 3 or 4 goals before the Canadians really had a chance to get themselves firing, before an advantage puck was even called. The puck sat for long periods on the corner of the goalbin with the defenders unable to clear and attackers unable to finish for a long time, this became a recurring theme in this pool. The game was very clean with maybe only 1 or 2 sinbins and very few calls.
Here are a few highlights and snippets from the game. Apologies for the ads on the gifs.
Free pucks are a good chance to see setups. Here you can see CAN putting 2 fwds in the channel and trying to set them up to drive and make ground from their defensive end. Really similar to how a lot of our patterns look as well, leaving the goalie on the surface as a sweeper until he's needed.
Canada Number 8. This break looked very fast and scary in the game, an adventurous angle from the corner. This pool was great for these angles. Thankfully someone else tackled him before he made it to me. (Thanks Nick)
We had the obligatory camera guys learning the ropes on a first day, no commentary and some growing pains as the organisers jiggled a few things into place, no score overlays etc but everything was pretty good given all that. The reffing seemed to have started pretty well too.
When we got rolling forwards the Canadians struggled to stop us and spread the puck away and that's where we got most of our goals. They put us under pressure when they held onto the puck and worked possession, like this passage
But they weren't able to do this consistently enough to put us under sustained pressure.
I messed up a barrel roll in this game. Jesse told me afterwards that some clubmates of his from Canada were very unimpressed with someone pulling out such a tacky move at worlds. A common viewpoint! They put you in front of a firing squad for doing that in Australia. But, I want to jump to the defence of the always-criticized barrel roll.... it's just a tool in a toolbox that never gets used after all.
When people learn to barrel roll, it's like a new cordless drill in your toolbox. Then often people try to bang in nails with that drill, wash dishes with it, brush their teeth, no idea when to use it and for what. Eventually it goes back into the toolbox after their team-mates have an intervention and it rusts away un-used. Anyway. Here's me fluffing it up slightly by losing the puck mid-roll and having to look back and re-collect it above my head and therefore losing the timing to be able to get the pass around the Canadian outside forward and swimming shame-faced back to the wall...
It's really the only time you can use it in a game, picking up loose puck with an opponent that side of you. It can be better than a reverse curl tackle pickup because the guy can't get an arm under your body to reach for it, plus if you do it right you end up with the puck on the front of your stick immediately on the other side swimming away. This is it done better, in 2000 when it was all I practised 24/7 (other than backflicks). Unfortunately this is a blooper too as the guy I'm rolling it off is on my team. Still beat him to it though! Oh dear. Too late for an intervention guys, I'm retired.
EDIT - I was just sent the link to the Toronto Facebook page with an epic discussion/debate about barrel-rolls following this. Pretty interesting to see all the different viewpoints, and people putting a lot of thought into things like this! I'm not smart enough to link the post directly, it's on July 21st. According to that thread, the second gif above is probably a "full" barrel-roll most people are talking about. All I was doing was a half one to get swimming wide quickly. Will just repeat the intervention/retirement comment!
Back to the game, which was otherwise noteworthy for Jesse trying something a bit outlandish on a free-puck which didn't work very well, and then telling himself off unprompted in the debrief afterwards and reverting to his epic trademark dummy-punches through the rest of the tournament. No intervention required!
The game finished up 9-0, a better than hoped for start for us and a great first hit-up for the young guys who were in their first worlds game.
The next game was vs Argentina in the afternoon. Australia and Colombia had just battled to a nil-all draw earlier, and Turkey had a controversial game against Britain which finished with a draw and was then protested.
Meanwhile, it was about this time back home that the girls had just had a day at the beach with Nana, and thankfully the accommodation wifi was solid so we could all get skyping to family back home.
Nana and the little one having a lovely walk. Meanwhile, photo-bombing in the background, my eldest runs around like a savage covered in mud. You just can't fight genetics.
Next post, Game 2 vs Argentina