Lax.com put up a video of the Australian National League (which is made up of State sides) Final, and it featured Victoria taking on South Australia. As you can see in the video (which can also be seen below), the level of play is very high, and the Aussies love a good physical game. It got me thinking back to the 6 moths I spent in Perth, which is in Western Australia, and how it was one of the best experiences of my life. It also got me thinking that hey, maybe an LAS reader would be interested in playing Down Under! So why not provide a little info on how to do it, why to do it, and what the trip might be like!
I traveled to Perth in late June of 2001, and stayed until almost the end of December. I encountered less than 20 Americans during my six months in the Sun-Burned Country. I didn’t go abroad through my school and I took no classes. I just coached lacrosse, played lacrosse, and settled in to the country as best I could. Three months into my stay and my mom wrote me an email asking if I was ever coming back. I was that submerged in the other side of the world. And to be honest, it was easy. The Australians I met through my lacrosse club, and otherwise, were fantastic people for the most part. They welcomed me with open arms, a joke, and a beer. And then when I went out on the field, they tried to take my head off. It was an awesome experience!
I arrived on a Thursday morning, loaded my bags into the sport utility truck of my new teammate, and housemate, Luke Oliver, and I was off. We took in a women’s game in the early afternoon, and then went back to get ready for practice. I noticed there were only about 12-13 guys at practice and I was worried. I soon forgot about it though as we went to a bar, I had a beer and promptly proceeded to fall asleep on my feet. They took me home, I fell asleep and think I woke up on Saturday in time for our game against Bayswater.
Photo courtesy Bayswater’s Facebook Page
When I showed up to Bayswater’s grounds, I noticed that we only had a couple more guys than we did for practice. And I noticed the same thing about the other team too. Turns out, you can only around 15 guys on your roster for a game down there. I had never been so happy to be in great shape in my entire life. The game was starting in about 5 minutes so I went to grab some water and as I was about to sit on the bench, a teammate pulled me up and simply said, “Don’t sit. Black Widow”. Yes, there was a killer spider on the bench. But no one really seemed to care. I went along with it and decided to make the mantra “when in Rome (or Perth)” mine for the duration of visit.
I played LSM, close D, short stick O mid and D mid and would sometimes run off the field with my pole after a clear only to be sent back on with my shortstick. I was put in new situations with every passing play, and it was so much fun to be that involved in the game. Being able to run up and down was a huge benefit. There was a little chippy play, or at least what I considered chippy, and some trash talking as well. They called me a “bloody Sepo”, which is meant to be offensive I think. It means Septic Tank Yank (it rhymes?), aka we’re full of crap. But it’s just not that mean, and with their accents it sounds even less formidable. I actually grew to like it.
After the game, they gave me player of the game honors (which was much more of a nice gesture than a fair selection) and that got me two free beers at the opposition’s club house. The game had been physical, and there had definitely been some anger out there, so I was shocked at how well everyone got on afterwards. It was like a US Summer tourney where everyone just hangs out and has a couple beers. I definitely knew I could get used to that. Both my club, the Wembley Lacrosse Club, and Baysie made me feel welcome. And that would keep up for the duration of my time there.
But it’s not like I just went down there for six months and then said, “well that was nice”. It’s an experience that has stuck with me for years and has also created friendships that will last for life. Glenn Morley was on the Baysie team I played against in my first game. We went to Thailand together this year to play lax. Adam Sear was a 15 year old lax prodigy back then for Wembley, when he went to Maryland, I dyed him heads, and just strung a Pita Pocket for him. Daniel Shields was a little lax rat back then, but last year he brought the Iroquois Top String to the LAS Nation and won a NC with Onondaga. Matt Schomburg used to take me out in Fremantle after we’d play his East Freo squad and now he lives here and we got to hang out at the Big City Classic last season. Like I said, it was more than just another trip.
It’s a chance to go out and see a small portion of the world, and still play a lot of great lacrosse. It’s a chance to grow as a person, and do something different. You find ways to make it work, and in the process, get to meet a great set of people, who are part of a small, but tight knit lacrosse community on the other side of the planet. You get to Grow The Game, and grow your brain at the same time. I loved my time in Australia and would highly recommend it!