The road to Sanix May 2015
(Photo by Donna Moore, not me)
It is the Earl Marriott Senior Boys rugby tour to South Korea and Fukuoka, Japan, for the Sanix World Rugby Youth Tournament. Sanix is a yearly competition where selected
youth teams throughout the world are invited to take part. Earl Marriott is the only Canadian boys’ team at the competition. My son Liam is one of those boys. This is an account of the tour, written
from the comfort of my own home.
Day One: I drive Liam to school, where he and the team will board a bus to the airport, and I am feeling quite weepy. I go early with plans to take photos as I wave the
bus off, whilst wiping a tear from my eye no doubt, and to generally turn the event into something emotional and memorable. As we arrive at the school I am instructed by Liam to drop him off and
drive away – quickly. Ah, I think, he’s sad and wants it to be over fast, to avoid the pain of leaving. He gives me a quick half-peck on the cheek and doesn’t look back. Come to think of it, he
doesn’t seem to be all that sad. Well. That’s good.
I slink off home, this day no different to any other. Except my little boy is about to embark on a 5000 mile journey alone (albeit with 30 of his friends) and will play
the hardest, most physical rugby of his life over the next two weeks. No big deal. I console myself with the knowledge that I will receive many calls, texts and emails while he’s away.
Day two: I wake up to an empty, silent house. It feels really strange. One child is 5000 miles away in the UK, and now the other is 5000 miles away in the opposite
direction, in South Korea. I think it`s the opposite direction anyway. I check my phone; they have landed. I know this because the text from Liam says simply: “Landed”.
I wonder what the time is there. I know they are 16 hours ahead, but for some reason my brain is incapable of devising an efficient way to work out what this means. I
finally settle on a method: I deduct 8 hours from our current time, which gives me the time in Korea, but ahead. So, if it’s 8am here, I deduct 8 hours – which gives me 12am. Now I know it’s 12am in
Korea, the next day. I proudly tell friend Kathie this, and after she has stopped looking confused, she says “Or you could just put it on your phone”.
Day Three: In the absence of any news, I conclude that they are having a good time in South Korea – perhaps this is what they mean by “silence is golden”.
Day Four: The boys land in Japan, allegedly. There is still no contact from my son.
I feel like I should be there. I check the prices of flights and decide that I shouldn’t. I consider starting a crowd-funding campaign. I could call it the “Get this
pathetically needy mother to Japan” campaign, but realistically it`s unlikely to generate enough for a sushi roll, let alone a flight. For me, it’s not just about being there in case my son gets
injured, though that is something I think about. It’s about the whole experience. I know there is limited time left to watch Liam play rugby, and annoyingly I have only just started to enjoy seeing
him play. I have wasted eight nervous years watching his games from behind my hands.
Day Five: We get an email update from Coach Adam Roberts (Robo). In it, he mentions the boys’ first game – which they lost to a big, fast Japanese team. The score seems
irrelevant though, as Robo tells us about something far more important which happened before the game. The team took some of Cody Kehler’s ashes to Japan, and before their first game they gathered
together to spread them on the centre field. Afterwards, Liam gave a speech about Cody, who was a team-mate to many of the boys, and a ladybug landed on his foot. Ladybugs have a special significance
around Cody’s passing. Liam bent down to pick it up, and it stayed on his hand throughout his speech. Robo says they were all very emotional and it is something they will never forget.
I am at work when I receive the email, and it stops me in my tracks. Like many others, I still struggle every day with the loss of both Cody and Chantal, and this whole
episode gives a small comforting reassurance that they are somehow still present. I hope Liam, their friend, feels this too. I can’t ask him as he seems to have forgotten how to use a
Day Six: Our friends Jim and Donna Moore (Liam`s parents) are at the tournament, and they are keeping the rest of us updated with Facebook posts and photos. I devour
these posts and am very thankful for them. We all are. Jim also keeps us informed via text with real time game reports. As Husband Lee and I sit waiting for updates, we feel as much tension as if we
were there. Today’s game is another tough one. Part of me is glad I am not there to witness how tough.
Day Seven: What? They have another game already? And it`s against New Zealand? I need a rest. At this point I stop caring about wins and losses, and just want everyone to
get through the tournament uninjured. Sadly, they don`t…
Day Eight, or maybe Nine: I think there might be another game today but I can’t be sure.
Day Ten: Daughter Kerri asks how Liam is getting on. For a minute I am confused. Liam? Who’s that?
I am joking of course. But I realise I haven’t been in contact with my son for five days and then I realise that I have only just realised that. We have been told that
there is currently no WIFI at the “compound”. I imagine this is a life-changing experience for the boys. As well, of course, as the fact that they are playing rugby against the best youth teams in
the world. In Japan.
Day Eleven: I am starting to get used to this empty nest thing. Yes, the house seems empty, but so is the laundry basket. And the fridge seems unusually full.
Day Twelve: The tournament is over and I am quietly relieved. I finally manage to speak to Liam on Facetime. The team is on a high-speed train to Tokyo for one last night
before coming home. I used to worry about my 17-year-old roaming the streets of a bustling foreign city, but somehow, it seems, after the past 12 days, I no longer do.
Day Fourteen: The boys are back in town. As they walk through Arrivals at YVR, wearing their new Japanese headbands and rugby-player’s tans, they are greeted with a round
of applause from their fans and parents (which happen to be the same thing), who are relieved to have them back, and very, very proud.
The team look tired, battered and bruised. There have been a few nasty injuries, and in fact they have had to return one man down – leaving Second Rower Stefan behind to
recover in hospital from a spleen injury. He will return home this weekend.
The Sanix tournament is not for the faint-hearted, and it’s been a gruelling, character-building and tiring tour… probably for Liam and the boys too. But it’s not all
Seriously though, I am really glad that my son got to experience it. I feel that the tour, the tournament and the time away from home has had a hugely positive impact on
him as a person and as a player.
As for me, well the whole tour experience has exhausted me, and I really, really hope I won’t have to do another one any time soon.
To see more on this story plus video please go to: http://blogs.theprovince.com/2015/05/16/cody-and-liam-half-way-around-the-world-mourning-turns-to-magic-for-rugby-brothers/