Not only representing Australia at the Touch Football World Cup but winning was a dream come true for Warren, who has enjoyed a long career playing football.
You’re just back from the Touch Football World Cup, where you represented Australia in Edinburgh, Scotland. Tell us about your experience in the sport and how you came to represent Australia?
At the beginning of this year I was fortunate enough to have been selected in the Australian Men’s 30s team to contest the 2011 World Cup in Scotland. Initially, the team began as a squad of around 40 players and after training camps and representing Northern NSW at the National Touch League, the final 14 players were announced to represent Australia.
I have been playing Touch since I was 13. I actually started here in Port Macquarie. Initially, I was playing just as a summer alternative to rugby league but then I started to make junior representative sides, and I was fortunate enough to play for both NSW and Australia as a junior.
After bringing my young family to Port Macquarie and retiring from playing rugby league, I really began to focus on Touch a little more and set myself a goal nearly 2 years ago to get back into the Touch representative teams. Fortunately for me, this fitted in nicely with the 2011 World Cup – which only comes around every 4 years. This became my ultimate goal.
I think I am just so lucky I live in place like Port Macquarie, where I have the opportunity to train and play such an enjoyable sport. There are so many good people who want to help you out. I would not have been able to achieve my goals without my mum and dad, who have always supported me in my life endeavours – and my beautiful wife Amanda, who continues to motivate me and keep me focused.
Being in Scotland would have been a bit of a culture and weather change. How did the team cope?
Obviously the different time zone was always going to be an issue. Touch Football Australia provided us with a detailed plan on how to reduce jet lag and how to acclimatize. I had to try and stay awake as long as possible in the days leading up to the flight and try to sleep in – this was difficult, considering I was still working as a PDHPE teacher.
The night we departed we had to stay awake for an extra 13 hours after our normal sleep time. Most of the team managed this, and I must say that I adapted fairly quickly to Scottish time. Definitely the two training runs we had helped the boys stretch out and get the body moving after the long flight.
We had a lot of rain (as expected) and it made a number of our games challenging at times. Our team’s composure, skill and professional approach allowed us to change our playing style to suit the conditions. But probably the biggest shock to the system for all Aussie players was the fact in the UK summer the sun rises early and does not set till about 10.30pm. We were playing 6pm games, and it felt like mid afternoon!
What kind of preparation goes into such a big tournament?
After the team was finalised, we had a series of training camps and team functions on a fortnightly basis. Luckily for me, these were all in Sydney, so it’s quite comfortable travelling by car. We had numerous players travelling from as far as North Queensland, which is a massive commitment – but understandable when you are representing your country.
The camps were all 2-day events. We would train as a team and perfect our plays, then play maybe 2 or even 3 games a day to develop as much team cohesion as possible.
In between these camps, I obviously had my own training program to be following. I was squeezing in at least three 5 – 7 km runs a week, a speed/skill development session, a high intensity anaerobic session every Sunday and a game of Touch when possible – quite a tough program when you factor in full-time work and two young children at home.
You played 11 games undefeated against such countries as England, Luxemburg, Wales, France, Fiji, Scotland, Germany, Japan and South Africa. Which stood out for you?
Any game when you pull on the green and gold is pretty special. No matter who the opposition is or where I play, when I represent Australia I make sure I cherish every moment. I suppose I am just lucky I was able to do it at the World Cup in Scotland.
The Fijians play such a physical game of Touch, the Japanese and South Africans are very fast and agile, but the stand out match was the final against England. There is always a rivalry between Australia and England in cricket and rugby league; Touch is no different. The English are very aggressive and confident players, but our team just moved to another level in the final, winning 18 – 2.
An unforgettable moment would have to have been our 31 – 0 victory against Luxemburg. This equalled the largest score ever in Touch World Cup history. This was their first ever World Cup appearance and they showed so much sportsmanship, despite the score-line.
I managed to score two tries in this game, but our captain Gavin Shuker scored 11 tries (a World Cup record for a single match).
You scored a try in the final, which helped secure victory and ultimately the World Cup. What was the feeling like?
Absolutely fantastic! It’s not every day you get to represent your country, and it’s definitely not every day you are crowned a World Champion! Scoring a try in the final was just the icing on the cake to what was an amazing life experience.
To be part of one of Australia’s most dominant Touch Football teams is such a rewarding feeling, but to win so convincingly is a reflection of the hard work by all players involved.
Friends and family have all been ringing up and saying, “How ya going, World Champ” – which sounds weird every time I hear it.
What’s the next focus for the Australian Touch Football Team and yourself?
Personally, my focus now moves to December, when Port Macquarie holds the annual NSW State Cup and the National Touch League in March 2012, which is also held in Port Macquarie.
These are the two biggest events on the Touch calendar and if I can produce some solid performances at these carnivals, I would like to think I can give myself a good chance of earning a place in the NSW Men’s 30s team.
The Australian team’s next focus now moves to the Trans Tasman Series against New Zealand. The 2015 World Cup is to be held in Australia, and I have heard a rumour that Port Macquarie is in the running to host that event. I will definitely be aiming for 2015 if it is in Port.
You’re a current player and representative of the local Port Macquarie Touch Association. How can interested locals get involved in the sport?
I first joined Port Macquarie Touch Association in 1993. The association has always run a very successful summer and winter competition, as well as a junior competition during the summer.
Touch is a lifelong physical activity. People of all abilities can simply enter a team into a competition or turn up and play. I encourage all people of all ages to give it a go – you never know where it will take you.