Chris Atkin – England Knights travel blog…
Hull KR half-back Chris Atkin, along with team mate Robbie Mulhern, is currently on tour with the England Knights in Papua New Guinea. Chris has kindly agreed to produce a three part travel blog whilst away on tour. Follow his updates below…
Well, after a long and gruelling journey back from PNG (via Brisbane), I have made it back to Hull. With a couple more weeks rest before returning to Pre-season with the rest of the squad.
After the first game up in Lae, we headed back to the hotel, enjoyed the usual post-match beers in the hotel. But we were up pretty early to make the trip down to Port Moresby for the final game of the tour.
The first few days in Port Moresby involved a couple of light training sessions, focused on recovery. The hotel was a little more modernised, and a lot of time there was spent playing Fifa, in the pool, a few trips down to a local shopping centre, which is nothing like what we would see in the U.K.
We had a few trips planned for the week whilst in Port Moresby, probably the most memorable for the majority of the squad being the trip to a local village (emphasis on local, a 90 minute bus journey), through the jungle and to a small area near the coast. Around 300 school children welcomed us along with staff and other families. After a brief introduction to the school, we were invited to walk through the village to the local rugby pitch, a large open space with post at either end. That is probably the only part that would enable you to think it was possible for a rugby match to take place on the space. The ground was closer to concrete than grass/mud that we would expect to see in the U.K on a rugby field. However, this did not stop the teams from putting on 2 fiercely competitive matches. The moment which would probably be remembered by every person part of the tour, and the easiest was to summarise what the people of PNG have and demonstrate their passion, was when the first try was scored right in front of us, under the posts, and the kicker took one of his own boots off and placed the ball on top of it, to take the conversation.
After a rather long week, spent mostly in the hotel, it was game day. A few changes had been made from the first match, but Robbie and myself retained a spot in the match day 17, another huge honour for us both, to take part in the second match, at the National football stadium, in Port Moresby. After a very strong first half we went in to half time 18-12 in front, but after a strong start to the second half from the Kumuls we lost 32-22.
After an unbelievable time in PNG we had another early flight to head back to Brisbane, before we spent the day down at the Gold Coast before we began the journey back home. A 14-hour flight back to Abu Dhabi followed by the final 7-hour flight back to Manchester.
A truly humbling experience, we have made mates for life and memories we shall never forget.
After two tough days of training down at the Broncos training facility it was time to pack up and make the journey over to PNG. Thursday was quite an early start, a coach trip back to Brisbane airport for the first of two flights. First stop was Port Moresby then a connecting flight to Lae, the destination for the next few days and Game 1.
It all seemed very normal at first, check-in, security, board and change over; until we landed in Lae. We were welcomed by a large gathering at the security gates, with a dozen or so dressed in traditional PNG clothing. This was just the beginning of what was to come, the people of PNG were so welcoming, smiling and just wanted to have their picture taken. It was a strange but enjoyable experience.
After unloading our bags from the trailers, and loading back on to the wagon we boarded two small buses that would get us to the hotel. The roads were pretty good to start with, and after five minutes or so of being on the road, the fun began, a few pot holes began to appear, then a few more. Until we were weaving left and right trying to avoid them, although the driver did his best the ride was a ‘little’ bumpy.
We arrived at the hotel just before dark, a quick dinner and then some down time before an early night, as we were up pretty early on Friday.
We headed to a local school, just five minutes from the hotel. Another amazing experience, after a quick q&a session in front of over 500 students and staff, along with a few songs from captain jack Hughes and Toby king (part of the forfeits we had in place, videos can be found on the England RL social media pages) we took to the sports field for some coaching sessions. It was great to see so many kids loving RL and they all were highly skilled. It just showed how big the sport is over here.
After the morning at the school it was time to head down to the stadium for the captains run, the final session before the game. Short and sharp, it felt like a really good session. The heat/ humidity was ridiculous, but the skill level was high and we were well prepared for tomorrow’s game. Back to the hotel for a short recovery session followed by dinner and a team meeting. At the team meeting the seventeen players were presented their own playing shirt by Paul Sculthorpe, not only one of the greatest players to play RL, but someone who made their international debut, in Lae, twenty two years ago. He spoke of what it meant to play for this country and what we as a group and individuals can go on to achieve from this point, it was a very special moment for all the players, and something I will certainly never forget.
Finally, GAME DAY!
Well… what an experience! And what a result!
After a quiet morning, everyone doing their usual game day prep, we met in the team room at the hotel which was now set up as the changing room. The plan was to get strapped and changed at the hotel and then jump on the coach down to the stadium, due to the minimal space available at the ground.
We jumped on the coach, ready to go. And shortly after leaving the hotel we realised this was going to be like nothing we had ever experienced before. The streets were full of people, obviously supporting their home nation, but we were not ready to let that stop us. The conditions as mentioned from the previous days training were tough, and we probably didn’t help ourselves at times with completion and having to do a lot more defence than we would have liked. But one thing I can say about this group, is that even though we have only been together for a short period of time, we have become a close group and everyone gave 100% to get the win.
The second game will certainly bring some different tests for us as a group, but we know we have a lot more to give and can’t wait to get down to Port Moresby and begin preparations for the second game.
Arrived safe in Brisbane, after an early start on Thursday morning in Leigh. Quick coach journey down to Manchester airport for the first flight (to Abu Dhabi). Just a quick 8 hour flight in comparison to second flight. So after a quick stop in Abu Dhabi, it was on to the second flight to take us to our destination for the first week (Brisbane). 14 hours to go…
It was mine and Robbie’s first time (also for many of the squad) making the journey to Australia. It was tough. Your body is out of sync, not really knowing what time zone to work off and how much sleep you need. A few films helped pass the time and eventually we landed safe. A short coach journey to the hotel followed.
We arrived at the hotel around 6pm on the Friday evening, first job was a quick trip to the pool, to get some recovery in before dinner and an early night (or that was the plan). Everyone being a bit jet lagged, the lads decided to go for a walk around the city, trying to tire ourselves out for some sort of sleep.
Saturday was an early start, day 1, the first full day in Brisbane. We were up for breakfast at 7am and a light training session followed at the university of Queensland. Followed by another pool session and some lunch. By this point I think a lot of the lads were feeling the effects of the travel, and a few hit their rooms for a nap. I got the chance to meet up with one of my good friends who has lived in Brisbane for nearly 7 years now, and spend some time catching up and find out a bit more of what Brisbane has to offer.
Sunday was back to a normal training day, the first chance to really work on some stuff under intensity in preparation for the first game, and as a full squad. After the field session, we headed over to the Broncos training facility, newly opened in February 2018. (Few pictures). It was phenomenal, the state of the art equipment and the level of detail that had obviously gone in to the planning was unbelievable. After a tough gym session we headed to the pool room, 2 small baths (1 hot and 1 externally cold) and a 20/25m length pool for active recovery.
After a good few days in camp, we had the Monday off, so the coaches decided this was a good opportunity to have some down time, giving the lads the night off and the chance to head out and experience some of the Brisbane nightlife.
Monday was a late start, I think the majority of the squad finally caught up on some sleep, and we had the day off. So we needed to make the most of a lie in. We planned to head down to the Gold Coast and get on the beach for the day. Another unbelievable experience, and also having the opportunity to ‘attempt’ to surf. I say attempt as I don’t think many of us could say we surfed, as we spent most of the time chasing after the boards floating back in, or trying the get out past the waves (unsuccessfully).
The first few days were fairly relaxed and mainly used to get the lads back in to a routine and doing the right things, but it was time to get back to focusing on Game 1. Tuesday and Wednesday would bring 2 full training days, and the squad for the game would be announced on Tuesday.
(Next update will be from PNG, after first game)
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