Sometimes things don’t always turn out how you imagine. That’s why it’s good to have a Plan B, and if you’re in Bali have a Plan C too. Best laid plans can be quashed in an instant when a volcano decides to spew ash across the airport.
Unfortunately the teams from Malaysia and Thailand weren’t able to make it to Bali after their flights were cancelled on Wednesday. The Australian group managed to get in after a series of delays and diversions. At one point we had 3 team members in Jakarta, 7 in Surabaya and 5 stuck at home in Australia with cancelled flights. Thanks to the great team as the Bali Sports Foundation (BSF) who came to Denpasar airport to collect us at all hours of the morning.
Traveling to Bali has been a great learning opportunity for both the Australians and Indonesians. Anyone who has been to this amazing place would know it’s not the most wheelchair accessible place to hold an event for Quads, but the people here are keen to help and to learn, and they always find a way to make it work. Event organiser Rodney Holt says "A problem is only a problem if we don’t know about it".
The island only has one bus with a wheelchair lift, so on any given day half the team needs to transfer into mini vans and their chairs then go into a truck that follows us there. Yes, even the two 0.5s have been manhandled into the vans successfully. There is a huge element of trust watching your chair being loaded into another vehicle and hoping that you both arrive at the same place intact, but everyone has adopted a "go with the flow approach" and everything seems to be working well.
With only 2 teams at the Bali 4s, Plan B (an evolving concept) was implemented. The event has turned into more of a training camp, with games of mixed teams and workshops. The Australian players have stepped into coaching and mentoring roles, working with the Indonesian players and coaching staff to develop game skills and strategies.
In just a few days, the development of skills in the Indonesian team are evident. More effective screening and use of low pointers, better setup for picking and fewer throw away passes. With strong leadership from their fierce females, the Indonesian team has come a long way from their first appearance in South Korea 10 months ago.
Alongside this work with the players, the classification contingent of Kees, Emilie and I have picked up where Deb Bowditch left off. We have been teaching the basics of classification to local coaching and support staff, so they are better equipped to continue sourcing new players to keep the sport growing. The classification workshop ran in the courtyard under the tropical shade of trees surrounding the courts. Probably the nicest training facility I’ve used, I just hope the enticing surrounds weren’t a distraction from the content. Maybe that’s why we generally find beige meeting rooms for these things.
The question many people who have traveled through this region will be asking……what about Bali Belly? At the time of this writing the team have had no ill health. Even the weather has been kind to our sympathetically impaired quads, with a pleasant 28-29 degrees.
The outdoor, undercover playing venue is ideal. It lets the cool breeze through to keep everyone going. It’s also probably the most picturesque rugby venue I’ve been to. Generally a gym is a gym, no matter where you are in the world, but not this place. Surrounded by lush green trees and fresh flowering frangipanis, it a welcome relief from the ‘Ice boxes’ at home.
The venue has also hosted Boccia and Eskrima (stick fighting) training this weekend. After watching in awe at the skills in the deaf mute eskrima, two of the Australian guys had a safety briefing, donned helmets, and went to war on each other with rubber sticks. Quad stick fighting; a new sport for Japan 2020?
Rodney and his team at BSF have been terrific hosts, treating us to some amazing evening meals out and about. Not surprising given that Rodney is a trained chef (just one of his many talents). No dodgy tourists traps for us, just great local cuisine and Bintangs and good company. Tonight marks the final event, which will culminate with a beach party, joining with some other sports events that have run this weekend.
Many of the Australians are staying on to holiday around the island before heading home again. Back to the cold winter. The next challenge will be thinking about how to build on this to sustain the development over the past few days.
By Katie Bourke