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Why I went tagging in the land of the Big Banana

The resort provided the perfect setting for our four days of preparation: sandbanks for beach training and refreshing waters for recovery sessions (which were no longer mandatory after we spotted a stingray)…”

“Coffs Harbour? Where is that?” was the standard response I got when I told people where I was headed for the Tag Rugby World Cup. I was none the wiser.

And having never been a part of a sports tour of this nature, I didn’t know what to expect for my Tagbok teammates and I as we headed Down Under in late October.

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The Tagboks in their Madiba shirts ahead of the opening ceremony.

Now, having experienced the land of the Big Banana (Coffs Harbour is renowned for its banana harvests and Big Banana Fun Park), I can only tell of its beauty and hope to return with more time on hand.

Why tag rugby?

Tag Rugby is the most inclusive form of the game I love and it accommodates all genders and ages. It is modelled on rugby league, but the hard-hitting tackles are replaced by two velcro tags secured to each player’s shorts – thereby removing (most) physical contact from the game.

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Tagboks win Plate Quarterfinal against China (8 – 6).

While still in its infancy in South Africa, the sport is growing in popularity globally, and nowhere more so than in Australia. As hosts of the 2018 Tag World Cup, Australia and Coffs Harbour welcomed the ruckus of rugby players from around the world to their pristine coastline with beaches, emerald rivers, fields and forests.

Reflections Moonee Beach Holiday Park

After the flight from South Africa and a day enjoying the beaches and sites of Sydney, it was a welcome reprieve to settle in the spacious countryside of Coffs as we began preparation for the World Cup. Our South African men’s open team was based at the Reflections Moonee Beach Holiday Park on the Moonee Creek Estuary, about 10km north of the Coffs Harbour centre.

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Aerial photograph of the Moonee Creek Estuary and beach (courtesy of coffscoast.com).

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One of the Moonee Beach Reflections Holiday Park residents.

The resort provided the perfect setting for our four days of preparation: sandbanks for beach training and refreshing waters for recovery sessions (which were no longer mandatory after we spotted a stingray), and a host of activities to entertain the boys during downtime.

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Between the training sessions leading up to the World Cup the team enjoyed the natural beauty of the region.

Flora and fauna are in abundance at the resort, despite it being close to town. Hundreds of brightly coloured birds announce the start of each day and we even spotted a troop of kangaroos during our morning run through the subtropical forests.

Outdoor and sports galore

From fishing to flying, stand up paddle boarding to whale watching, the Coffs coastline is ideal for outdoor activities. While our focus was rugby, we did our best to fit in what we could during off time.

Much like Cape Town, Coffs has a rich coffee culture and one of our highlights was finding quality coffee and hospitable staff at Palate and Ply Espresso Bar. Collecting our daily pick-me-up here quickly became part of our team’s post-practice routine.

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One of the teams many visits to Palate & Ply Espresso Bar.

Let the games begin

Coffs Harbour, like the rest of Australia, caters well for sports, and the C.ex Coffs International Stadium and complex were manicured in preparation for the World Cup that kicked off on 1 November 2018.

After the opening ceremony it was all systems go, and we played nine matches in three days, ultimately losing in the plate final. Each of these days was rugby focussed, with the saying “Tags on, Switch on” getting us ready for each match. Between games, it was about managing the body, and the team would get off their feet in the shade provided to await the next challenge or make use of the recovery bar.

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Tagboks warming up ahead of the opening match against Cook Islands.

Damien Cornelli of ValeVacations that operates globally, facilitated our tour and took care of every detail from bookings and logistics to filling water bottles during matches. Of the 24 teams participating in the men’s open category, it was New Zealand who ended up taking the Men’s Open title, and all too soon the tournament was over.

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Team Great Britain and the Tagboks pose for a photo after a warm up match. The two teams would later meet in the Plate Final of the World Cup.

Our final day arrived and despite the allure of the many activities and walks on offer, or the multitude of attractions at the Big Banana Fun Park, our bodies were broken from the previous three days. Relaxation was required. We took a scenic drive up through the farmlands to Sherwood Nature Reserve where, after a short walk, we arrived at the emerald waters of Scouts Falls. The mountainous terrain, forest shade and cool waters were a tonic, allowing the boys to rest and soak their sore bodies ahead of what would be a long trip home.

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The Tagboks spent the last day enjoying the refreshing waters at Scouts Falls in Sherwood Nature Reserve.

Our visit to Coffs was busy and short, but I’m convinced that there cannot be many places like this in the world. With the natural and unspoiled beauty of the environment, coupled with a working infrastructure and economy, it is no wonder why it draws people from all over the world.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
The International Tag Football Association: www.internationaltagfootball.com
Palate and Ply became our unofficial coffee supplier during our tour. Whether you need a break, or a recharge, this is the place to find it.
ValeVacations organised our trip. Run by ex-professional and national team soccer player Damien Cornelli, and specializing in sports travel, ValeVacations was the ideal partner to arrange the tour. Contact Damien (@damiencornelli) for all your travel needs (flights/accommodation/tours) worldwide.

For information on Coffs Harbour, from where to go, stay, dine or play, visit the Coffs Coast Tourism website.

Dale Barrow

Dale Barrow loves to get out into creation and takes every opportunity to do just that. He is a hydrogeologist, a student, a father and a husband. His wife Lauren helps him with the photos and together they look for any chance they can to get out the city and experience the beauty around them.