WITH the 8th Annual International Junior Rugby Festival approaching, the talented youth from Freeport Rugby Football Club (FRFC) travelled to Florida to gain some much-needed experience against quality competition in the inaugural Weston Rugby Challenge Cup.
Hosted by Okapi Wanderers Rugby Football Club, the one-day tournament was a tremendous opportunity for Freeport's Under-12, U-14 and U-16 teams to showcase their skills and build chemistry just weeks before the festival.
"We really appreciated Okapi hosting this event for not only our players but all the participants," said Stephen Sheehan, FRFC's youth development officer.
"It was rewarding to watch our kids capitalise on months of hard work and play in front of family and friends who made the trip," he said.
The Florida trip was the culmination of months of hard work and dedication from players, coaches and parents. The U-16 team put in extra work in the weeks leading up to the trip, including training with the senior team on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
"The games showed me how dedicated you have to be to play rugby," said Edward Walkin, who attends Jack Hayward High. "We as a team have to work together on improving our skills and try harder in practice and our future games."
For many of the youth rugby players, the trip represented the first chance to ever travel to the US.
Beyond competing on the field, the players also built off-field chemistry that is invaluable in building the club culture. "The trip was, in its own way, a learning experience altogether," said U-16 player Quinton Sands. "I learned what it is like to spend time with teammates and I gained some new friends."
Freeport's youth teams, which included several standout female players, showed tremendous heart against Key Biscayne, Wellington and Okapi.
Jake Edey and Andrew Lane stood out with brilliant tries for the U-12 team. Titus Lockhart and Michael Sanchez displayed their brute force and power in a highly entertaining U-16 match against Okapi.
Though the trip ended without any hardware, the diligent work, fundraising, organising and training resulted in a resoundingly successful trip for Freeport RFC.