Yes, Freezone participation in the Asia Pacific Outgames in Wellington, New Zealand and the results are absolutely great! Everyone of us experienced a new atmosphere and a higher level of Tournament play than we have had before.
That comes from someone who has been to 3 Gay Games and many other Tournaments and is undoubtly not a cliche !
Firstly to New Zealand and the people there who have beautiful, sincere and warm hearts which are expressed in whatever they do and say. It was great to be among these people, especially Tessa, Nelson and Nev who welcomed us and made us feel so comfortable doing our training at the Lower Hutt Venue Sunday afternoon.
Day 1 of OutGames when SS Awesome arrived 10 minutes late for doing our duty we felt so bad, however the organiser didn’t reprimand us for that but simply assisted us to commence our role. ( For that gesture on the second day we were glad to reciprocate doiung extra duty when Tessa asked us to do so )
Knowing that there were only 12 teams participating ( 2 from Sydney, 5 from Melbourne, 1 from Adelaide, 1 Brisbane and the rest from NZ), our apprehensive moods didn’t last long as soon as we discovered that we would be playing the best of 5 sets in 90 min Games. For us this is kind of new and exciting!
While doing duty, we were aware and glad that SS Panda were doing well, playing against the Melbourne Spikers leading 2 : 0. Little did we know that Mebourne Spikers managed to turn the situation and won the Game 2 : 3 ! That’s the disadvantage of best of 5, skillwise Panda’s is higher than Spikers. So, taking this as an indicator, we realised stamina and consistency are crucial in this kind of setting.
Long before the Outgames started we had asked the Organiser not to put the 2 Freezone teams ( Panda and Awesome ) in 1 Pool from the start. So as a result SS Awesome have to face a very strong Brisbane Team – the strongest competitor in the tournament! They are agile, young, relatively tall, have variety of techniques and similar level of skills which enabled them to rotate in and out during the course of the games, benefiting them to play at their highest level well within the 90 time frame. They have 8 or 9 players altogether.
That’s not the case in SS Awesome as you know 🙂 …. if you look at me, haha ! However, these facts didn’t deter us to give a good game. We took 1 set out of that game which made us feel relieved as we knew we still had room to improve if we happen to meet them again. We made quite a few unforced errors e.g. :
. serves – the game ball bounces differently and uncontrollably flees out of the court. However at the same time it is not slippery as much even if it gets wet.
. covering – tendency not to cover the opponents blocks taking for granted that with 1 spike they won’t be able to return that hit. Their covering was amazing especially their libero.
. we didn’t utilise Nick’s great versatility to set, no matter how good Coco’s setting was, playing best of 5 in 90 minutes would be better handled by more than 1 setter.
After lunch when the Cross-over took place deciding what level each teams will be categorised for the next day, SS Awesome took into account all we needed to consider and be prepared for when we played the Melbourne Spikers. It was a very tough game, neck to neck. Point by point we needed to accummulate because they were very experienced and had skillfull players. One of them – George, has been always an excellent player since more than 15 years ago. He played middle and is a left-handed player just as our Nick Ponlasit is. It was so spectacular to see their performances as Nick geared up his skills at least 2 notches….. it was a slip of the tongue when one thunderous spike from Nick couldn’t be blocked by George – the very words come out of my mouth : ‘That’s what you call Penetration !’ I looked around hoping people around me didn’t hear it ……. but there were people grinning widely at me and Pejay said ‘Julias ! I can’t believe you said it !’
Beside Nick everyone else on court did similarly: Rafa played magnificently, consistent strong serves and spikes, James’ middle short spikes and effective blocks, Coco’s smart placements and excellent setting, Chawin’s reliable first balls and universal sudden attacks and Kevin’s confident outside spikes & blocks were amazing. Tian and myself were often at the bench, however we were tirelessly either supporting with drinks, clapping, encouraging & yelling, checking the correctness of scoring, calling time outs when needed. We did play on other games when the opponents were not as strong and Tian’s previous ankle injury still restricted him a bit. The team bonding we had, enabled us to step up and march into the A grade the next Day as we managed to beat Melbourne Spikers …. sorry, can’t remember the scores but we won 3 : 1.
For SS Panda, unfortunately the Draw meant they had to meet the Brisbane Team on the crossover, while the teams on the other 2 Pools ( X-Factors and Kiwiana ) who were succesful in their progress to A Grade were not as strong as Panda. Had it run differently, Panda would definitely play A Grade the next day …. and it would have been so great, having Brisbane, Panda, Awesome and perhaps M Spikers in the A Grade Finals. Nevermind, Panda took it with dignity.
More and even most importantly, Freezone players blended so well with others athletes during this Tournament in- and out-courts. Not only did we earn the respect on our sportmanship, but having social mixers characters in both teams with their specialities e.g. cheekiness, flirtatious, flambuoyant, congeniality …. including sluttiness, you name it! We won peoples hearts! Isn’t this kind of victory worth having on top of Silver Medals for both teams? As Pete said, how Lorraine couldn’t help but to love us. Out of a heavy schedule of partying, we could still enjoy the extravaganza, the Cultural Dinner, a Wine-tasting Trip to Martinborough, (joined by some rogue Melbourne Spikers’ Hans, Sebastian and Lantry), appreciating New Zealand & Maori Culture at Museum Te Papa and we didn’t drop dead dancing on the Revolution Party until small (to a bit bigger) hours in the morning. 🙂
What we would like to say from the bottom of our hearts is Thank You …….. to Freezone, to every wellwisher, friends, Team Sydney & Sponsors for your love and support. We had a tremendous experience and a fabulous time and it doesn’t matter if we are now very broke, hahah ! We’ll endeavour to transform these valuable experience to enhance and to benefit our Club so that more members could be prepared to enjoy this kind of Tournament.
With our deepest love and gratitudes. MMMmmmwwwaaahhhHHH !
Julias Grant (on behalf of)
SS Panda and SS Awesome.