Rhys in Fiji tour cyclone scare
RETURNING hockey star Rhys Henwood is still trying to decide which is scarier – a clash with a New Zealand Maori hurricane or a face-to-face meeting with a Fijian cyclone.
Grafton’s 18-year-old was part of the Australian under-21 bronze medal-winning side which competed in the Oceanic Pacific Cup from December 5-15.
There he squared off with the best – and biggest – from the Pacific Islands.
But the clashes with Fiji, New Zealand Maori, New Zealand Development, Samoa and Papua New Guinea were lightweights compared to the category 3 cyclone that hit Suva during the stay.
“It started raining at about midday and it got really heavy, it started coming in about 10pm,” he said.
“Trees were uprooted, roofs blown off. It wasn’t the nicest thing.
“In the dorm rooms we were staying in the doors were blown off.
“That was the first time I have seen anything like that.”
The storm proved the perfect preparation for the clash against the tournament hosts Fiji and the powerful Maori side.
“We were versing a Fiji national side and some other big teams but we were only under-21,” the Royals striker said.
“The Maoris had a couple of big guys. New Zealand Maori had a former national player so it was a challenge to mark him.”
But Henwood admits his rivals reserved kept their enforcing on the field.
One of three 18-year-olds in the touring party, Henwood enjoyed the company of his fellow squad members as well as the hospitality provided by the hosts.
“It was good because I got a lot of game time and the other guys (in the squad) are all good blokes,” he said. “And the Fijians are really nice people.”
After the disappointment of last year’s under-21 squad, Henwood labelled the bronze medal in the seven-match tournament – his maiden green and gold venture – as his ‘highest achievement’.