Team Australia Day 1 at the WILC

Posted: September 15, 2015 by Paul Rai in Vimy Lacrosse
Tags: , ,

I arrived last Sunday evening in Syracuse and was able to meet up with the Team Australia Box Lacrosse team on Monday morning. My son, Tristan, is playing for the team at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship. He was eligible for the team through my father-in-law, who was born in Australia. Tristan was not yet in Syracuse as he had academic obligations at Lehigh until Thursday. He arrived on Thursday night, the day before the tournament started.

The Australian team have been extremely welcoming to me. I have had some conversations with their coaches over the past few months and they invited me to lend a hand with the team where possible. The Australian team staff are as follows:

Head Coach: Bob Carter

Assistant Coach: Alan Lewer

Assistant Coach: Greg Mollison

Manager: Adrian Burns

Strength & Conditioning Coach: Ian Webb

The players on the Australian team are in very good shape, are athletic and have very good skills. They lack some of the game awareness that Canadian box players have picked up through the numerous games they would play in the their careers. I am just trying to provide some guidance to the players and assist them as they move forward in the tournament. The entire team is comprised of very talented players that are extremely passionate about box lacrosse. They definitely have been willing to learn as they prepare for the start of the tournament.

Yesterday was the first day of the World Championships and Australia met Finland in their opening game. Finland is coached by former NLL players Tracey Kelusky and Devon Wray. You knew that the team was going to have some structure with those two guys behind the bench. The adrenaline was pumping at the beginning of the game. This is what these players have been preparing for over the past year. The game was being played in the new Village Pavillion arena and the supporters from both teams were loud and energetic. I was very excited myself to be on the bench with the Australian team at a World Championship. It was just an amazing moment as the players were being introduced and the game was set to start.

The entire game was a back and forth affair. Australia was down early and then battled back. Then Australia was up by two only to see the lead evaporate quickly. Then in the fourth quarter Australia was down 6 – 5, before tying the game and getting the lead goal by Tim Ratje from a great pass from Jesse Whinnen to make it 7 – 6. It was a battle and with the Finland goalie pulled the Australia team was able to get the ball back and kill the clock. There was sense of jubilation and relief as the players poured off the bench.

The game was won today through the strength of the defense and goalie. Trevor Brennan was in net for the Australian team, a transplanted Canadian who has roots in Burlington, Ontario. He was lights out amazing in net. He was under pressure as we took numerous penalties and were killing several penalties in a row. The best series of saves today was most likely when an outside shot knocked Trevor’s glove off and then there was a second save and with Finland having an empty net to shoot in Luca Lettieri dove across to save a shot and then Trevor was able to get back in and make one more save. It was one of those moments where you just shake your head and are thankful the goal did not go in the net.

The defense in front of Trevor was also outstanding, extremely physical and did a great job shutting down the middle of the floor.  They have improved significantly this past week and they competed hard. Our offense was timely and effective. They had numerous chances to score, but were not able to finish. They know they have some work to do to in order to be better. With the number of point blank opportunities we had, we should have scored more.  At the end a win is a win. It was what the team needed to get the tournament started on the right foot.

Last night the Opening Ceremonies were held at the War Memorial Arena in downtown Syracuse. The ceremonies were being held prior to the Iroquois and USA game. When we arrived at the Arena the rink was near capacity with 6000 people in the stands. The energy in the arena was electric. People were so excited to be there. Everyone was given a white plastic rain poncho to wear so when the video presentation was going on it was projected on the people in the stands. I have never been a fan of any Opening Ceremonies, but this was different. The traditional Native American dancers that came on the floor were amazing. The passion they exhibited was powerful as the singers led them to the middle of the floor. It was emotional for me. The game of lacrosse has given me so much and being a part of those ceremonies, watching the events unfold made me feel very grateful for the opportunities I have had.

The first team out was Australia and I can tell you I had a lump in my throat as the team came out and Tristan was walking out with them. The entire team looked sharp, in their blazers. That was a moment in time I will cherish. Then the other teams came out and the fans were so welcoming and appreciative. And finally Team Iroquois came out and again it was one of those emotional moments. When they walked out, the pride that the Iroquois Nation fans showed in their support of their team was emotionally moving. I will admit that the Opening Ceremonies was one of the highlights of anything I have ever been involved in with lacrosse. It was that good.

One other thing I need to highlight about the Opening Ceremonies is the remark from the FIL representative about Team Australia. He made a note about Team Australia being so far from every FIL event, yet they are always a part of the FIL Championships. They travel the farthest to take part, but they are always there.  That showed me the amazing commitment to lacrosse Australia has. They make the sacrifices to play in the World Championships and it shows the passion that the players and organizers have for the sport.

The night ended with the game between Iroquois and USA. The game was skilled, fast and exciting. USA kept it close, but the skill of the Iroquois was too much as they won the game 13 – 9. It was a great end to a great day. Great lacrosse all day and the start of the World Championships. Next game for Australia is Turkey. The boys will need to step it up even higher today. I think the nerves will be better and the team will respond with a great effort.  Looking forward to it.





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