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Melbourne Football Club

The China Diaries - Day 3

We start the morning at 8am for a fine breakfast spread consisting of scrambled eggs, bacon and vegetable buns.

Soon we break off into our teams.

Yours truly is part of the Flying Chopsticks, which features the likes of Colin Sylvia, Nathan Jones, Matthew Bate, Cameron Schwab and AFL football operations general manager Adrian Anderson and his wife Fiona, who are part of the Melbourne touring party.

Our first activity listed on the itinerary is Kung Fu, but our master Argen instructs us Tai Chi boxing (in a placid way to start the day).

Argen, in fact trained with the Demons a couple of years back, when the Chinese side played in Australia as part of the International Cup.

Former Demon Peter Maynard, now a key part of the commercial operations at the club, battles after straining his neck earlier.

Sylvia is getting right into the Tai Chi, while our master selects the delightful Lauren Fisher, a member of the finance department, as his partner for demonstrations.
It’s a rainy morning, but the group continues on.

At 10.30am, the Chopsticks undertake bamboo basket-weaving.

Tom McNamara and head physio Sam Pietsch make a cracking basket, while Bate and yours truly’s ambitious, yet artistic attempt to make a swirly one doesn’t quite hit the mark. (Bate is adamant - if we had had more than 45 minutes, the basket could’ve been a cracker).

Assistant coach Josh Mahoney constructed his basket with Anderson, showing the duo had plenty more to offer than just off-field football strategies and guidance.
From there, the Chopsticks undertook its ‘Lost in translation’ and photographic assignment.

The group had to find answers to questions via the locals. The stumbling block of course was the language barrier. Still, some improvisation - and possibly some connections for answers - helped the cause!

We learned about a haunted house in the forest, which immediately required B-grade-like acting for photos in the dilapidated building. And for the record, it did have somewhat of an eerie feeling!

And since we were staying in the Naked Retreats village - this presented all sorts of opportunities for photo ideas.

It wasn’t long before Jones, Sylvia, McNamara, Anderson, Dave Dunbar, Maynard and yours truly were posing in the bamboo forest with little clothing and just our Adonis bodies showing! (Well, at least Jones’ pose suggested that!)

Lunch followed and, during this period, we learned of a significant appointment which had taken place back home.

Schwab told of the acquisition of former captain Todd Viney, returning as player development general manager, which was met with great enthusiasm. Viney will return to the club after successful coaching stints with Hawthorn and Adelaide.
 
In the afternoon, the group continued their activities, as the players and coaches undertook some team meetings and a light training session at the hotel’s tennis court.
With the court perched up on the mountain, it required a higher than average size fence. Fortunately, no Sherrins bounced over and rolled down the mountain never to be seen again.

But it’s understood one Jared Rivers’ skewed kick came extremely close (according to one source)!

As the training went on, the Chopsticks undertook tea picking.

And one of the great sights of this trip was seeing two heavyweight football officials - Anderson and Schwab - looking at peace with the world as they picked tea leaves in the middle of a bamboo forest, on the side of the mountain.

Although there were murmurings of unrest from the Suns and Pandas regarding the tea picking, the Chopsticks took to it like ducks to water! It was actually rather therapeutic!

Late in the afternoon, there was a window of opportunity to partake in your own activity.

With internet/email limited, word had spread that Mark Kitto (our guest speaker from the previous night) had wi-fi available at his coffee shop at the top of the mountain.
It was about a 20-minute walk, but that didn’t deter Schwab, who could see wi-fi at the end of the tunnel!

Martin Cox, who received this year’s President’s Award, and IT guru Richard Arnott, who was more interested in the coffee than wi-fi, were along for the journey.
The coffee shop was warm and homely, with the cake to accompany the brew - a treat!

Soon it was back down the mountain and off to dinner.

At 7.30pm, the group listened to guest speaker Dr Wang Xisu, who offered his thoughts on Modern China.

It was a fascinating perspective from someone within.

Soon, the day’s team points were awarded - and deducted - due to penalties, such as lateness. And some of the highlights of the day were on show via the bamboo baskets and pictures captured.

But perhaps the bamboo basket made by young-gun Tom Scully wasn’t a highlight (finally, the kid has a flaw!)

Max Gawn led the charge with the Panda’s theme song: “Oh where the Panda-Monias (or whatever they’re called) to the tune of a rival AFL team’s ditty.

The enthusiasm big Maxy showed was quite stirring!

Lynden Dunn also led the Suns’ charge with his team’s song, which drew plenty of laughter.

Pictures of the day were revealed, with the Suns’ reflective naked pic in the forest among the standouts. Joel Macdonald, Glenn Balmforth and Matty Goodrope were among the ones to glisten.

Chris Connolly’s ‘Any Given Sunday’ speech, which was also partly spruiked on the first night, was completed in full this evening - along with full Al Pacino-like accent.
Once these were complete, the Chopsticks were announced the early leaders with 130 points, while the Pandas (97) and Suns (86) followed.

Oh, and just who was that chiseled, good-looking Demon impressing the attractive Californian girl working at Naked Retreats?

It was certainly brought to the attention of everyone over dinner!