MOLONG’S Rob Laffin had one of his most memorable tours with the Australian Country men’s hockey team this month, and it wasn’t due to what happened on the field.
This is the fourth time Laffin has been head coach of the Australian Country men’s side and this year they toured New Zealand to play in the Hawke’s Bay Festival of Hockey.
Laffin’s men played in the Affiliates Tournament, where they won three of their six games to finish fifth.
However, the Festival also included the Six Nations event, which the Hockeyroos contested.
The Australian Country staff saw an opportunity.
“You know how you have dreams? We requested a little bit of access to the Hockeyroos,” Laffin said.
“They did much more than that. They granted us access to a couple of their team meetings. We were like big sponges in there, listening to what they talked about.
“We could chat to the girls. A couple of the staff asked us about what we’re on about.”
The Australian women’s team also supported the Australian Country men’s and women’s sides.
“They came and watched us play,” Laffin smiled.
“They sat next to us and watched the girls (Australian Country women) play. They were really lovely. We went to get changed because we played next and the Hockeyroos went and spoke to the girls after they finished their game and had a few photos. Then they watched us play.
“We started really well. We scored after 42 seconds against the New Zealand Indians.”
And the Hockeyroos were inspired by this quick scoring.
“The Hockeyroos played Korea the next day. The centre was like here in Orange where you can go right up to the fence to watch. So we were allowed to stand right next to the dug outs,” Laffin said.
“The Hockeyroos scored within 28 seconds. Adam Commens (Hockeyroos coach) turned to our boys and said, “Our game plan was to score quicker today than you did yesterday.” It was great.”
Laffin was amazed at how accommodating the Hockeyroos and their staff were.
“We were only after a photo opportunity. It just went from there,” he said.
During the Affiliates Tournament, the Australian Country men beat the NZ over 35s 10-0 and the NZ Indians 7-3 on the first day.
They then lost to Hawke’s Bay (4-2), the NZ Maoris (4-0) and the NZ Country XI (3-2).
In the play-off for fifth, the Aussies accounted for the NZ 35s 6-1.
“We finished fifth in the tournament which was pretty disappointing,” Laffin said.
“We started well but we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.”
Laffin’s contract as head coach has finished but he applied for another contract and is waiting to find out if he’ll get the top job again.