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Wanted: Air Force rugby players

March 14, 2001

Caption: The Air Force Rugby Union team 2001 - (L-R) Back: Mr John Platten (Raytheon), SGT Chris Filmer (Coach), LAC Brendon Christensen, AC Reynaldo Maume, AC Peter Madigan, CPL Jason Bastaja, LAC Shaun Glazier, CPL Luke Sweeney, PLTOFF Graham Hazelman, AC Dallas Hodgetts, FLTLT Dennis Nothdurf, CPL Richard Pryor (Manager), Mr Sean Crowe-Maxwell (Carlton United Breweries).

Middle: FSGT Daniel Stack, AC Doug Sanderson, CPL Nick Pinder, LAC Martin Hazelman, FLTLT Justin Ryder (Captain), AC Ron Marchant, FLTLT Luke Warner, FLGOFF Andrew Machin, LAC Storm Richter.

Front: FLTLT Matt Radcliffe, LAC Anthony Piggott, FLGOFF Tony Connolly, LAC Ramon Foster, OFFCDT Adrian Grey

When the Air Force Rugby Union mounts a challenge for the inter-Service season this year, it's done with a long-term view to build a force to be reckoned with.

According to Flight Sergeant Daniel Stack, Air Force has played second fiddle to Army and Navy in the Defence Force rugby stakes.

So with support from Air Force echelons, a constructive recruit program and experienced coaches to boot - Air Force are prepared to make 'the game they play in heaven' a solid sporting pursuit.

The Air Force training camp bunkers down at RAAF Base Fairbairn on 15 April, just four days before the inter-Service hit-out.

Management continues to recruit Air Force players, having secured many of last season's standouts.

With a potential 40 to 45-strong squad, players will have limited time to demonstrate their ball skills and match fitness to staff.

The camp will involve a light session on the first day to determine available field positions, fitness levels with a few gut-wrenching sprints and finally, a skills session. Day two and three will attempt to run the players as a squad; light opposition the first, and vigorously the following, in the trial match lead-up.

'The hardest thing is, with downsize in numbers, we realistically only have a couple of hundred airmen to pull a side from - that's the nitty-gritty,' FSGT Satck said 'Army have got maybe twice that, with a large Reserve contingent they can draw on as well.'

'The new rule is that besides having full and part time serving members, which has always been the case, Service teams can also have Defence civilians, as long as they aren't contracted.

'The drama is we only have two bases that currently have Air Force rugby teams; Amberley and Tindal. To get 15 players away from each base is near impossible, but these are our strongest possibilities.'

The incentive for the players, comments FSGT Stack, is the underdog status of the team, given match history and limited funding.

However, with their newest rugby patron, Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Angus Houston, and the well-planned approach, this season spells change.

Air Force coaching staff for the 2002 season includes Coach Sergeant Chris Filmer, nationally accredited Warrant Officer Justin Cockroft and FSGT Stack.

The post-match function at the Brumbies/Highlanders clash will see ASRU Warriors combined Services squad announced, in preparation for their upcoming tour likely to be 15-29 June.

Any airmen with an interest in joining the Air Force rugby ranks should contact FSGT Stack at daniel.stack@defence.gov.au or on (02) 6265 3759.

Story by Amber McKinnon