It was not a typical start to the week for Aussie rowers. The Australian team visited the Raiders, a professional rugby league team based in Canberra, Australia, and faced off against the “very, very big strong boys” in a skills challenge on the pitch and in the gym.
The challenge included a 1500 meter relay race on the ergs (three to a team, 500 meters each) and a goal kicking contest. Fortunately for Aussie rowing supporters their Olympians did not disappoint; soundly beating the hard-hitting rugby players. One-nil to the visitors.
It wasn’t a done deal in the eyes of Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion Alex Purnell. “Coming into it we thought it would be pretty 50/50 because these Raiders players are very strong, very powerful so they’d be able to muscle it down whereas we’d be a little bit weaker and a bit more for the endurance side of things. That was a tight tussle but we managed,” said Purnell whose side faired less well on the pitch.
The Raiders redeemed themselves by thrashing the rowers in the kicking contest, and drawing the overall contest. No hard feelings from Olympic bronze medallist Caleb Antill. “Being a Canberran, and growing up in Canberra, I’ve always been a big Raiders supporter, so it’s been great to come and meet some of the fellas and learn a thing or two from them,” said the multi-medal-winning sculler.
The opportunity to learn from another sport was not wasted by either side. “It’s been awesome to have two of Canberra’s professional sporting teams come together and network and share ideas and have a look at their awesome facility here,” Antill said.
A sentiment shared by Canberra Raiders winger James Schiller. “It is so interesting to see how they go day-to-day to get to where they are, and how we do our stuff,” said Schiller. Rugby runs in the Schiller family but this didn’t help the 21 year-old feel at home on the erg.
“I fell off my seat about seven times,” laughed Schiller. Nevertheless, Schiller noted the camaraderie in both squads. “I think that just shows the mateship that sport brings to each team and even the rower boys were getting behind us footy boys and same out there on the field when they were kicking,” said Schiller.
“It’s just really good to see the positivity, especially in the tough time preseason, it really lifts energy.”