Day 18 - Paris

The final day of this year's tour saw the group hard out on the Metro to explore Notre Dam, The Louvre and complete the day at Napolean's Tomb, interspersed of course with a touch of last minute souvenir shopping and crepe consumption.

A unanimous highlight of the day was the walk across "Lock Bridge" which spans the Seine. The name has resulted from the craze of adding locks to the bridges and them throwing the keys in the river. Not to be outdone after the group had finished their time on this bridge there were a number of new additions to the locks on display.

This evening saw the group beginning the packing process before our journey home commences.

The final Tour Dinner saw the following team award winners announced;

Tour Person Award - Charlie Ibell & Bianca Rigby.

Players' Player Boys - Fraser Cullen
Players' Player Girls - Martije Venter

Golden Stick Boys - Hugh Flassman
Golden Stick Girls - Mikaela Truskinger

For pictures of the award winners please refer to the Wanderers Australia Facebook page.


Day 17 - Paris

This morning saw the group commence the final leg of our "European Experience".

After fare welling our final hosts the group headed towards Paris to sample the Parisian way of life.

Once met by our guide the group under clear blue skies toured Paris city taking in the best known attractions and of course the obligatory hundreds if photos.

Unfortunately despite the ideal weather construction work prevented the group from travelling to Level 3 of the Eiffel Tower, however for most the 670 steps to Level 2 proved a daunting enough challenge.

After checking into our hotel the group set off on the Metro back into the centre of Paris to climb the Arc De Triumph and watch the light show as the Eiffel Tower sparkled like a Christmas tree.

Tomorrow will see the final sightseeing around Paris and souvenir shopping before the group heads for home.


Day 16 - Palace Of Versailles , Saint Germain & Game 9

After comparing stories of our experiences with our fantastic French hosts the group headed out to the Palace Of Versailles to explore the intricately furnished and painted interior of the Palace and the expansive surrounding gardens that extend as far as the eyes can see.
The group then headed back for lunch on the town of Saint Germain, however to our disappointment they has run out of snails shortly before we arrived.
After exploring the surrounding streets and discovering the little treasures such as macaroon and chocolate shows the group headed out for the last tour game.

Game 9
Girls 3-0 Win
Early on the game proved to be largely a midfield battle with neither team being able to create shots on goal. The deadline was broken when the girls went 1 up midway through the first half and then weathered the opposition attacks.
The second half saw the girls pour on the pressure and create numerous opportunities which mostly were converted and came away with a convincing win and an effort that everyone can be proud of.

Boys 7-3 Win
The boys started strongly and imposed their stamp on the game with a brace of early goals against a physically smaller opposition. However the opposition hit back late in the first half to tighten things up. Through fast running, committed tackling and slick ball movement the boys were able to regain control of the match and run away with a convincing and satisfying win.


Day 15 - Antwerp / Northern Battlefields

This morning after bidding farewell to our hosts in Antwerp the group moved onto our third different country in as many days as we headed up to the Northern Battlefields of France where Australians played a role in many pivotal battles in this area furring WW1.

Despite the heavy rain during the journey to the region as if on queue the skies cleared upon arrival and our guide John gave us a detailed account of the critical battles and turning points during the fighting in this area.

Highlights of the tour were;
* Villiers Bretonneux Australian War Memorial.
* Victoria School in Villiers Bretonneux.
* Adelaide Cemetery ( Where the Australian Unknown Soldier was repatriated from).
* Le Hamel
* Pozziers

From there the group headed to our French hosts for the next two nights to enjoy a traditional French meal and prepare for the final tour game tomorrow.


Day 14 - Antwerp / Game 8

Today saw the group farewell our hosts in the Netherlands and set out to Antwerp in Belgium. Upon arrival lunch was the first order of the day for most people which consisted of the famous hot chips and the even more famous chocolate.
After lunch there was time to explore the multitude of shops and cobblestoned winding streets before heading out to our second last game.

Game 8
Girls 4-3 Loss
Playing in driving rain and on a water base pitch the girls took some time to adapt to the surface and against a strong opposition soon found themselves behind on the scoreboard. Exhibiting their fighting spirit the girls clawed themselves back into the game with hard running and ball movement. They pressed hard to the very end for an equaliser, but tonight unfortunately that goal eluded them.

Boys 3-5 Loss
Also played in the driving rain the boys were able to adapt quicker to the hard sand filled surface and with disciplined marking and ball movement were the first to score. The opposition gained control of the lion share of the possession and were able to score from a number of opportunities. Despite two late goals the boys went down fighting to a very strong opposition in a cracking game of hockey.

Parent, supporters and friends please note for the next two days both the players and team management are hosted by the next club and therefore Internet capabilities are unknown. Therefore there may be delays in the blogs during this period.


Day 13 - Cheese & Clogs / Volendam / Game 7

This morning the group set out on the final day of our "Netherlands Experience".
First stop was a demonstration of cheese and clog making where the birthday boy became an apprentice clog maker for the day.
After pictures with a traditional Dutch Windmill it was onto the traditional Dutch fishing village of Volendam for lunch.
The final step before heading out to tonight's game was a trip along the Afsluitdijke ( a 20km road reclaimed from the ocean that joins two parts of Holland.

Game 7
Girls 1-1 Draw
In a high quality game of hockey the girls showed true grit and determination to fight back from an early deficit to equalise late in the second half. The ball movement and defensive efforts being exhibited are testament to the belief within the group.

Boys 5-6 Loss
In another extremely fast paced, open and highly skilled game the boys created a multitude of chances throughout the game against a strong opposition.
However a number of key turnovers late in the second half proved decisive as the boys lost another close one by a solitary goal.


Day 12 - Amsterdam / Bussum / Amersfoort / Hockey Shop

After bidding farewell to our overnight hosts the group headed off the Amsterdam to explore the canals that line the city on foot. From there it was onto the famous "Red Light District" and before leaving the city experienced the phenomenon unique to Holland, that of multi story bicycle parks.

The group then headed out to the largest hockey store that anyone had ever seen (that opened today especially just for us) and stocked up where necessary on the hockey gear they needed.

After driving around the sights of the small towns of Bussum and Amersfoort the bus headed to the hotel for a much welcomed pool recovery session, group dinner and most importantly an early night.


Day 11 - Amsterdam / Game 6

This morning after a relatively smooth overnight ferry trip the group took its first steps on Dutch soil under a clear (yet chilly) sky.
The first destination for the day was Amsterdam for a visit to Anne Frank's House. From there the group strolled along Damtrack and selected lunch from the Christmas themed stalls before heading out to the next game on tour.

Game 6
Girls 2-3 Loss
The game was a see-sawing affair with both teams experiencing periods of dominance and the game flowing end to end.
After conceding the first goal the girls pushed hard and were rewarded with a short corner equalizer. Shortly after the girls fell behind again, however with grit again equalised only to concede a goal in the dying moments. Overall a great team effort.

Boys 6-5 Win
The boys joined the winners list tonight after a few jittery moments late in the game when their lead disappeared and were forced to score a late goal to clinch the win.
The team started brightly taking an early lead based on sustained pressure and quick ball movement.
With an aggressive press forcing turnovers they extended their lead to 5-2 in the second half. However lapses in composure saw the opposition level the scores before the boys scored to secure their first win.


Day 10 - Travel To The Hull Overnight Ferry

With the UK leg of the tour coming to an end and today being dominated by travel some of the group share their experiences to date.

"cold beautiful , challenging hockey and great shopping historical London has it all. Hospitable hosts have made us feel welcome and lifelong friendships are blossoming."

Everyone is having an amazing experience.
No day is ever the same.
Great people, shopping and hockey.
Lush countryside and historical buildings.
Attractive unique accents.
Never a dull moment.
Delicious food.

"after almost completing our UK leg many players are feeling sore and tired after 5 games, but have already made some of the strongest friendships that they will ever make. Traveling around the English countryside has already become one of the best experiences of my life. Both teams have come together well and are producing hockey that Australia can be proud off".

Day 9 - Birmingham / Game 5

This morning the group headed out to the Birmingham Nature Reserve for a walk and stretch to aid in the recovery after three games in three days.
From there it was onto explore the world famous Birmingham Bull Ring Markets and shops, a highlight of which saw the group lunching at one of Jamie Oliver's restaurants.

Game 5
Girls 3-2 Win
A great all round team effort, after falling behind early in the game and absorbing significant opposition pressure.
The second half saw the girls hit their straps with great midfield pressure and probing through balls to secure a memorable win.

Boys 5-6 Loss
A frenetic opening with end to end expansive hockey, saw the boys fall a couple of goals behind early before their ball movement and pressure allowed them to claw back the deficit .
Whilst the first half was punctuated by many goals (four all at half time), the second half saw the boys score late to take a 5-4 lead, however two goals in the last two minutes saw the boys fall just short of claiming their first tour win.


Day 8 - Warwick Castle / Stratford On Avon / Game 4

This morning under unusually clear skies, the group headed off to Warwick Castle to explore and to participate in the "Dungeon Experience".

Stratford on Avon was the next destination to visit the town where William Shakespeare was born.

Game #4
Girls 1-2 Loss
The girls started strongly and put the opposition on the backfoot early. The game proved to be expansive with end to end hockey with neither team giving on inch.
The pressure applied by the girls in the second half ensured a lions share of the possession. Despite going down narrowly the positive signs of improved cohesion in attack is pleasing.

Boys 2-2 Draw
The boys also started strongly with rapid ball transfer from defense into attack and despite the efforts of the opposition goalkeeper managed to take a two goal break into the break.
Hockey as they say is a game of two halves and despite creating a number of chances in the second half, turnovers and loss of structure allowed the opposition two late goals to take a share of the spoils.


Day 7 Oxford / Game 3

This morning under clear skies the group headed out to Oxford.
Unfortunately the ongoing flooding put pay to the punting plans. However instead the group used the opportunity to explore the significant architecture and history of the area.

Game 3
Girls 1-5 Loss
In persistent rain the girls worked hard in defense from the outset on a sodden pitch against a fast and skillful opposition.
Working hard the girls created numerous opportunities through the midfield that resulted in circle penetrations and shots on goal.
The team continues to improve with every game.

Boys 3-3 Draw
Similar to the girls the boys took time to adapt to the sodden pitch however were able to manufacture a number of early promising circle penetrations and shots on goal.
The game was played at a frenetic pace from rand to end with the boys scoring two late goals to secure a draw.
The ball movement continues to improve with each game the group play together.


Day 6 - Tower of London and Game 2

Rain and cold winds greeted us this morning as we journeyed back into London. Luckily the sky cleared as soon as we entered the gates of the Tower of London. Highlight was
The Crown Jewels. We dropped into Harrod's on the way out and everyone was amazed by the decadence and expensive fashion items, hence only small gifts for family were purchased! Many would have liked to buy the white Porsche in the front window and a few fancied the $10,000 handbag!
2nd Game results: Girls defeated their skillful hosts 1-0 in a fantastic game. Huge improvement in structure and
communication from all players.
Boys drew 3-3 in a fast and furious game. Great effort from all the boys against a talented and well drilled opposition.


Day 5 - Arsenal Football Club tour

The group bid a sad farewell to their wonderful hosts this morning, then headed off to The Emirates Stadium ... home of the Arsenal Football Club. We spent over two hours exploring the outstanding facilities and learning all about the highly successful soccer team. Both teams participated in a stretching session at the hotel and enjoyed each others company at a team dinner. Another great day!


Day 4 - first match

Hi everyone we are having some small technical issues at our hotel with wifi so will have photos soon !

Day 4 - Norwich / Game 1
The group enjoyed time this morning being shown the sights around Norwich before heading out to the ground for the first game of the tour.

Boys 5 - 6 Loss
The boys started slowly and were forced to defend for the majority of the first half finding themselves 0 - 4 down.
In the second half the boys greatly lifted their intensity, however fell just short of the elusive equaliser.

Girls 1 - 5 Loss
The girls also started slowly and defended well to deny the opposition time after time with relentless tackling.
The game opened up in the second half with the girls having a good share of the attack, however experience in finishing ultimately proved the difference.

Tomorrow the group heads back towards London to tour Arsenal's home ground at Emirates Stadium.