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My debut season in words – Julian Caruana

Posted By Sportinmalta On September 8, 2013 @ 8:58 am In Featured,Rugby | No Comments

In 2012, I decided to act on a plan that was in the pipeline for a significant period of time, and finally immersed myself into the local rugby community by joining Stompers Rugby. Luckily enough, this coincided with what turned out to be the club’s best season in the last 5 years, with victories in the three of the competitions entered by both the XVs and the Xs sides.
At this stage, my knowledge of the sport was elementary, but what better way to learn something new if not from the experts in the trade?Stompers showed a complete domination of the local scene this season, which is further attested by the number of players who received a call up to play for the national team, and also by the amount of Stompers in the Malta A team that faced Sigonella in both the home and away fixtures. Chris Schranz made his debut for the national team in the away game against the Netherlands and Sam Borg was made Vice Captain of the team.
One of the most important novelties for the club this season was the formation of the ladies’ team, which was coached by Malcolm Attard and Andrew Camilleri. The team grew exponentially under their guidance and by the time the second half of the season came around, they were managing to not only compete with, but also beat some of the far more experienced teams in the league. Marion, Lorna and Marilyn also got called up to the ladies’ national and even travelled to the 7s tournament that took place in Slovakia. The ladies were also lucky enough to meet and learn from Catherine Spencer, an ex England Ladies Rugby Captain, who was nice enough to attend one of their sessions, and has continued to keep in touch with Stompers since then via twitter.
The journey to all the success this season was not as straightforward as it may seem. In fact things looked relatively bleak at the start of the season, with a poor attendance at the first AGM, resulting in its postponement to a later date. Pre season was also disjointed and inconsistent and problems with the surface at the pitch in Tigne (Sliema) meant that we had to relocate to other facilities three times over the season, eventually settling at far-away Gudja FC. Malcolm Attard also felt it was time to step down as captain of the team in order to allow somebody younger take the reins.
Sam Borg was chosen to replace him, and immediately made it clear through his encouraging and regular emails, that we needed to come together and work for our common goal – winning. Our motto of the season became “winning is everything”. Even though he was still recovering from a serious injury, Sam managed to ignite a sense of pride and determination, so that as the first fixture versus Alligators approached, our efforts intensified colossally. What impressed me the most at this stage of the season was the players’ commitment both on and off the pitch. Ties between us were also strengthened by our attendance at many social events and also by the creation of the Stompers’ WhatsApp group. The club’s efforts were focused on creating “team spirit” among the players but this evolved even further and became a brotherhood.
The fixture against Kavallieri in the first round was probably the first big test of the season. That win, and the first that followed against Overseas meant that we finished off the first half of the season unbeaten and full of confidence. The Kavallieri game happened to be the skipper’s debut as a Stomper and as Captain, which inevitably led to the infamous traditions in the form of the “flaming behind” and the “pint of death” (we have more colourful names for these but it is perhaps best if we keep these in-house J). The aftermath of the match was absolute carnage.
Unfortunately the club struggled to hold down a regular coach. French intern Nicholas Reviere was a constant during his short stay, however the valuable experience of John Meintjes and Jeremy Cassar was not always available due to work commitments. One thing Nicholas left behind was his cursing with a French accent, which is often humorously echoed on the training pitches and in the dressing room. The absence of an official coach was not seen as an excuse to be apathetic, but only made the group dig deeper and give more of an input, we became stronger because of it.
Malcolm is actually an IRB qualified educator and took charge of training together with Sam and Pancho. The group is littered with talent, but as our seniors often remind us, talent without hard work is useless. Most training sessions, packs of the lads are either helping the ladies team, or working on their skills, kicking, passing or conditioning – success didn’t happen by chance.
In light of all these circumstances, we were resolved even further to finishing the season unbeaten, which had by then become an attainable aim. Again, in the cup competition, wins against Kavallieri, and a tight nail biting victory over Overseas were the landmarks, sealing a place in the Mediterranean Bank Cup Final. Despite the feat, in the aftermath of these matches there were no celebrations as concentration levels were very high and our efforts were still focused on the remaining league games. This was probably one of the first times in the club’s history that a win v Kavallieri was not a wild, crazy celebration. We had to win one of our final three games, with the first being against Kavallieri. Eventually the first league trophy was in our cabinet, together with the Mediterranean Bank Cup against a strong Overseas team, sealing a domestic double.
One cannot complete a round up of the 2012/2013 season, without also mentioning the Xs team. Xs rugby at Stompers is the perfect way to gain match experience and to learn the rules of the game, especially for new recruits such as Matthew Spiteri (Mischief) and myself. It is also and platform into the XVs squad, where one can show improvements before moving up through the ranks. The team showed enormous strides from game to game which culminated in the thumping of Overseas in the cup final, and also beating Gladiators twice in the build up to this trophy, even though we had succumbed to defeat against them in the league.

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