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The Ireland Experience: Tom Jok

SKOB star, Tom Jok recently returned from an end of season trip with the VAFA to Ireland.

On October the 1st I flew to Ireland for the 2017 Ireland Tour. I was given the opportunity through the generosity of the St Kevin’s Old Boys community to fly overseas to a country I have never been to and a place you only recognise by its Celtic cross and celebrations of St Patricks Day. The Trip included playing three International rules games and one AFL match in Reading, England. This was a trip I was very uncertain about but one I knew I would thoroughly enjoy.

We escaped the chaos that was Grand Final Day, with Richmond ending their 37 year AFL premiership draught  and seemingly this was the end of the football season. It was only a week ago that I was in a similar situation to the Richmond players, celebrating an A Grade final, a first in our Old Boys Football Club 70 year History.

This trip also gave me an opportunity to prolong those celebration whilst at the same time undertaking a completely different sport, one I have never played nor practiced for.

I we finally landed in Ireland at Dublin Airport, I quickly took in the chilling air and cold whilst walking to our bus which was scheduled to take us to our Hotel in Cork, a three hour bus trip this turned out to be. Before I knew it, we were at our hotel and in our rooms. With all the excitement of being in a new country with newfound mates, a training session was the ice-breaker we all needed. During our training session, I quickly found out who was comfortable with the round ball and who wasn’t. it was clear that I was not comfortable whatsoever. Every kick went wayward, every handball was either short or too long. Training concluded and the feeling around the trip quickly changed from a quite group to one that quickly galvanised in a short (maybe long) period.

Tour takes off

We toured Cork around a city double decker bus where we were taken to see the city’s landmarks. I was amazed and at the same time bewildered at how green and scenery one country could be. Its something those who have seen Ireland can understand.

We spent five days in Cork and played our first match against Bishoptown. This was a night game which we were all eager to play. A chance to beat a Gaelic team at their own sport was enough to get us all motivated to play our best. The game ended in the VAFA’s favour, a successful start to what has already shaped to be an amazing trip.

The following day we all took a coach to Galway and had the chance to see the Cliffs of Moher. This natural sight is worth all its popularity and was a highlight of the trip I won’t soon forget, only downfall was the boat trip which was supposed to take us closer to the cliffs. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to be at the front of a boat when all the waves are gashing. Sea sickness was not my friend prior to seeing the cliffs from up high.

After losing our second match against the Tuam Stars, we took a bus back to Dublin where we concluded our Ireland trip. During our visit, we visited the Australian Embassy in Ireland and toured Ireland’s national stadium “Croke Park.” It was a privilege to see a stadium with so much history and one every Irish person was proud of.

Ireland was a very beautiful country, one I would love to visit again. The people were all very hospitable and curious to have a conversation when they could. It was very clear during those conversations how proud they were to be Irish. We spent two great weeks in Ireland and so it was time to head off to London, England and conclude our trip with the pig skin.

After a very short flight and little room for my poor knees, we finally landed at Heathrow Airport. It was clear from the outset how different Ireland and England were. We were informed we just arrived after a three day heat wave so we were expecting good weather for the three days we were there for. Before we could take in the sites of London, we visited Wembley Stadium and watched an English Premier League match between Tottenham and Bournemouth. We were off to a great start in London, having only been there a couple of hours and watching a great Football game. We quickly took in the tourist attractions of London knowing how much limited time we have before we leave.

Our final game was scheduled in Reading, a town a couple of hours away from London. We did not know much about our opponents other than majority of them were from Australia. The game was competitive early on but quickly became one sided. We ended our tour on a great win and so it was time to celebrate with one another as this was our one last night together.

As I mentioned earlier, I was given this amazing chance to travel Ireland and England by the St Kevin’s Old Boys community. I could not thank everyone involved enough. I have formed friendships and made memories I will never forget. The organisation of the trip by the VAFA was simply outstanding and to those involved, I thank you all. I was simply blessed to have had the opportunity to don the Big V jersey again.

Thank you

Tom Jok 

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