Day 1 – Trains, Planes and Automobiles!
For most of the group, it was very early starts from all parts of the country. Our own Nick Kay left Tamworth at 4.30am for a long 5.5 hour drive to the airport while the boys from Melbourne / Brisbane / Cairns had flights at 6.00am and 7.00am respectively. Yours truly got to get a bit of a sleep in and jumped on the train from North Gong to Sydney International airport at 8.42am.
We all met at the Qantas lounge all in good spirits and all ready and raring to go to China to play their National team, who are preparing for the Asian Cup in August.
We all know that with such a short preparation that we are going to be up against it playing the National team on their home soil with their home crowds and referees. We will get 4 sessions in where they will have 3 months of training under their belt. They have a squad of 16 players that they will utilize over the 3 game series so we will have no idea who we are playing until game time.
From a scouting perspective it is going to be difficult so we need to put in a very simple system for our team that will allow them to play to their strengths and hopefully allow us to be competitive. The team that has been assembled is going to be fun to coach with some super talented and some very smart players.
There has been plenty of comments / speculation about why Randle and Kendle were brought into the “All Australian” team so I thought that I might put this to bed!
The NBL put out invitations to many Boomers players such as Damian Martin, Kevin Lisch, Jason Cadee, Brad Newley, Adam Gibson, Chris Goulding, Cameron Gliddon and Mitch Norton to name a few but unfortunately they were all unavailable for different reasons. Both Randle and Kendle were willing and able to come into the team on late notice and I know that both of them are going to work their butts off on the tour and do us all proud.
Moving on…the flight from Sydney to Beijing was very long but fortunately most of the team were able to relax and watch some movies and get a few hours shuteye on the 12-hour flight. We arrived into Beijing at 10.15pm (12.15am AEST) to a balmy 30 degrees and seemed to taxi back to the terminal for an eternity…Beijing is a MASSIVE airport to say the least. 45 minutes later we finally got to the main terminal and through immigration to baggage.
After collecting our copious amounts of bags our “chaperones” Nan Nan and Karen met us and escorted us to the bus for a 40 minute drive to our hotel.
We finally checked in to our rooms at the Hotel just after midnight, which is situated in Northern Beijing right next to the main Olympic Stadium (aka Bird Cage).
Day 2 – Let the preparation begin!
After finally getting to bed about 1.00am, most of us woke up early due to our body clocks being on different time zones…grrrr. Beijing is currently going through a heat wave at the moment with the temperatures being in the high 30s every day with very high humidity and VERY POOR air quality. You look outside and it looks like there is fog, but it is nothing but pollution…there is no blue sky and you have no idea where North, South, East or West is due to the inability to see the sun!
We all met for a team breakfast about 8.30am and this was my first opportunity for all of us to meet up with Jerome (Rome) as he flew in from Chicago on a 14-hour flight the previous afternoon. Rome and I have actually been in touch with each other before the trip and have had some excellent dialogue about our previous experiences from the past season. One thing I know, and have learnt about Rome is that he is an exceptionally talented player and an extreme competitor. He is very focused on being the best player possible and we have actually hit it off really well and I am excited to be given the opportunity to coach him…as far as I am concerned there is no point looking in the rear vision mirror when all I want to do is look forward!
After a 50-minute bus ride in heavy traffic we arrived at Beijing Sports University for our first recovery and training session. We trained at “Team China’s” training court and it is a really good set up. It has 2 courts with 8 baskets available and a gym on the side of the court so they are able to do everything in the same venue. The training centre is air conditioned, however of course it was not on until we kindly asked them to put it on.
I was very mindful of the effects of travel, humidity, heat, dehydration etc. so our physio Nick Harrison put the guys through a really thorough recovery and warm up session before commencing a short 45-minute session on court to introduce our offensive and defensive system. Today we only had 9 players available as Lucas Walker will be joining the team (along with Larry and Justin Kestleman) tomorrow, so I was unable to do as much as I would have liked in our first session. However, despite being down on numbers, I was really happy with the first session and we managed to get our offensive system in. The players have seemed to have bought in to what we are doing and all getting along well.
We had a second session in the afternoon but we were unable to get on the Team China’s training court or Arena where the game is to be played so we trained at the Volleyball stadium at the University. It was a massive 4 court stadium that looked like a huge aircraft hanger!
It was really hot and humid (35+ degree and 90% humidity) in the venue and you could tell it was taking its toll on the players. Jesse Wagstaff has been carrying a very minor back niggle, Jeremy Kendle’s calf started to tighten up and Nick Kay tweaked his ankle very slightly and lastly on the way home Daniel Kickert was violently spewing his guts up all over himself and the bus!! I must say that our Team Manager Brett Havercroft is an absolute legend having to clean up the mess on the bus…his blood is worth bottling!
The hotel that we are staying at in Beijing is very nice and we are getting very well looked after. The food is very good and in particular, I am loving the Brazilian Steakhouse and Brett is absolutely smashing it!!!!! (I have been working hard to lose weight so I will need a lot of self-control on this trip!!).
Day 3 – Preparation time continues
We woke up this morning to rain, which has cooled the place down a lot, which is very welcoming for everyone. With a population of 21.5 million people in Beijing, the traffic is never good and now with the consequence of rain in Beijing the traffic has gone to another level and is more horrendous than normal.
To get to training this morning it took just over an hour to get to the venue where we trained yesterday. It was still hot and humid in the facility but at least they turned more lights on for us so we could see better!
Daniel Kickert was feeling much better after a good sleep and rest, however as a precaution we sat him out of the session due to the conditions and to give him more recovery time…we need him game time!!
Jeremy Kendle’s calf seemed a whole lot better as well and he did a good workout with the physio before resting him up as well.
We trained for about 1.5 hours and had a really good hit out and am confortable with what we have done…we know that the preparation is not ideal but it is what it is. It is more important to me that we get the bodies right for the games rather than flogging them physically in very difficult and testing conditions.
We spent the afternoon doing some recovery / physio and giving the players a bit of free time to themselves. I caught up with a good friend of mine Natalie Lee and had the most expensive coffee ever at the café in the lobby – $40 for 2 cups of coffee!!!! OMG!
Later in the afternoon, most players and staff went to the famous Silk Street Markets for a quick shop and to have some fun bartering with the local shopkeepers. The Silk Street markets are incredible with 8 levels where you can get almost anything from watches, jewelry, clothing, sporting equipment, shoes electronics and so on! The quality of most things are quite good with something being the real deal where other things are “knockoffs”.
This evening we had a formal dinner with our major sponsor for the trip CPA Australia and some very senior officials from the CBA and also the owner of the NBL, Larry Kestleman. We all had an excellent night networking with the Chinese guests and eating wonderful food.
In particular, you simply could not go past the world famous “Peking Duck”!! (no better place to have this than where it originated from!)
After a few very good speeches we jumped back on the bus for a 45-minute drive to the hotel for night night and prepare for tomorrow’s first game.
Don’t forget you can catch all the action of Game 2 live, 930pm Friday Night (July 7) on Fox Sports