Part 3 - The Rollercoaster ride of a professional athlete
G’Day RaboDirect Rebels supporters.
I am an ambassador for Foundation 49, a charity which I became involved in shortly after I moved to Melbourne. Foundation 49 is about creating awareness around Men's Health. It is non-specific and highlights the fact that men do not take good enough care of their health, too often seeking help is perceived as a sign of weakness. Doing the right thing could be as simple as a regular general health check. They may be embarrassed, ashamed, place no emphasis on it, or just flat out ignore the issues altogether.
Rebels Chairman Harold Mitchell AC is an active supporter of Foundation 49 and the health issues that he has overcome have been well publicised. Harold is now a healthy man and I recently had the privilege of attending his 70th birthday. Belonging to Foundation 49 has helped me personally, it has encouraged me to open up and in turn, hopefully help others.
2011 for me - Started for the Rebels in their inaugural game and played an active role throughout the season. I attended a Royal Wedding, played in the Rugby World Cup and in total made three return trips to Europe. What highs!
2012 for me so far - Started for the Rebels in their 1st match of the season, then suffered a serious injury. Suspended. Suspension overturned three weeks later. Fined. Fine overturned. Returned from injury and travelled to Europe to play in the IRB Nations Cup for Russia.
The extreme highs and lows of sport!
I have battled depression and anxiety for many years on and off, but I only acknowledged it when it became serious and constant. Seeking help had been on my mind all of last year and finally after the Rugby World Cup, I sought help through the Rebels club doctor who pointed me in the right direction. Since then I have made progress, rapidly declined, then made progress again. It is an ongoing battle which will take time but I will win.
My only regret is not seeking help sooner, so things could be solved earlier. The hardest moment was sitting in the team doctors room and opening up for the first time. Since then, it has become easier and easier, and now, I feel comfortable talking about it publicly. Depression and anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of. As an ambassador of Foundation 49 I think that it is only right that I be fair dinkum!
What I want to help achieve is to create more awareness of this serious health issue and let any other sufferers out there know that they are not alone. Statistically, 1 in 4 people experience depression or anxiety to some degree in their life. I have sought the opinion of many people whom I trust and whose opinion I value, and they are all fully supportive of me highlighting this problem.
Talking allows others to have an understanding and for us to not feel alone. For me, talking and being open has been very helpful. The fact that I am going through this now will mean that I am more understanding of other people in the future.
The IRB Nations Cup in Bucharest, Romania, is over and I am back in Moscow again for two days before flying back to Melbourne. Russia lost their final game of the tournament to Argentina A who played very well. Unfortunately I missed the last game with slight knee strain.
I enjoy very much being back in Moscow. I am staying right in the heart of town and it is the first time I have seen the city in summer. The mood of the city really does change this time of year, with people flocking to parks for exercise or to soak up the sunshine. I went on a boat cruise through the city, which I was pleasantly surprised with. It is hard to believe that the water completely freezes over in the colder months.
I also managed to catch up with Yury, who trained with the Rebels in the pre-season and missed the Nations Cup tournament through injury. I also had a meeting with the President of Russian Rugby at his offices and I look forward to continuing to play for Russia, and giving myself a shot at the next World Cup in 2015.
The Rebels have three games left this season and I hope to contribute in anyway that I can. I am thankful to the Rebels for the support I have received, through the tough times and the good times. The Rebels have played a big role in getting me back on the field and have encouraged my desire to represent Russia.
As I write from the airport, waiting for my flight back to Melbourne, I can only look back and smile to myself.... what a rollercoaster!
Please send any questions or feedback to Adam via firstname.lastname@example.org
You can follow Adam on twitter via @Adam_Byrnes
2nd Edition - Bucharest & Russian Rugby
G'Day RaboDirect Rebels supporters!
We recently played our second match of the IRB Nations Cup against Uruguay in Bucharest, Romania. Uruguay were ranked ahead of us going into the game and we knew that it would be a close match. We placed a lot of emphasis on this game, as it was an official Test match and a chance for us to gain some much needed confidence.
The conditions were perfect, it had been just over 30 degrees during the day, the pitch was dry, the sun was still up and the temperature had only slightly cooled by kick-off. As expected it was a tough encounter, especially at the breakdown with a few cards shown during the game. We held our lead and won the game 19-13. It was my first win with the Russian National squad and it was good to see the team enjoy a victory after putting in so much hard work.
Unfortunately, I took a blow to my knee whilst catching a ball from the kick-off. I couldn't continue and left the field with about five minutes to go before half-time. It appears to be a medial ligament strain, which I am resting in the hope I can play in the last match of the tournament against Argentina A on Sunday afternoon.
Our recovery sessions have been at a pool which is close to the team hotel. Because the ocean is a few hours drive from the city, the pools are where people go to spend nice days. In Australia, people flock to the beaches, well here, the pools are just as popular. I can't say that any of the guys complain about recovery either, we often stay for the whole afternoon. The pool itself is very large, there are DJ's, food marquees and generally people go there to enjoy the sun and socialise.
I offered my roommate, Pavel, some sunscreen on that day but he refused, saying he “never gets burnt.” He spent that night shaking with a fever and the following day had his blisters ripped open during the training session. He is a tough man, here is a picture of him doing his push up routine to some downloads on his iPhone.
Since being based in Bucharest for the tournament I have had a bit of time to look around. I went on a tour of the Palace of the Parliament which is huge. Construction of the building started in the 1980's under the communist rule of Ceausescu. Ceausescu was executed before the final completion of the building. Now it is used for many purposes and truly is enormous.
Walking through the Old Town is also a must. Narrow lane ways with many trendy cafes and bars that have a Romanian feel to them.
I talked last time about the real potential of Russian Rugby. While major changes won't happen overnight, there have been some positive steps in the right direction and the squad is definitely evolving. There are new players in key positions, namely the front row. The players themselves are natural athletes, more so than any other squad I have been a part of. But it is their mindset that is currently holding them back. Don't get me wrong, there is no lack of will, but they need to learn what is required to reach your best. Again, it is easy to take things for granted when you are exposed from an early age to academy's and coaching clinics.
Probably the major hurdle for Russian Rugby to overcome is funding. It is run on less than a shoe string budget. They have employed a good coaching team, but there is more needed than that. What Russian Rugby needs is a major sponsor. With access to finances that were correctly managed, it would help the national team go a long way.
With the 2015 RWC penciled in as my last goal in rugby, we must first qualify, starting next year. I look at the small steps that have been taken within the squad compared to this time last year and I am excited. One thing that must do is learn the language!
I'll check in one last time after our game this Sunday against Argentina A….it will be another good challenge for us.
If you have any questions or feedback for Adam you can send to email@example.com.
You can also follow Adam on twitter via @Adam_Byrnes
1st Edition – The IRB Nations Cup
G’Day RaboDirect Rebels supporters!
It has been a while since I last wrote to you from within the Russian Rugby camp.
Recently, I joined my comrades in Moscow where we had an intense three day camp at the Novogorsk Training Centre, which in many ways is similar to the Australian Institute of Sport. Novogorsk is a training community which hosts many athletes across different sports. While we were staying at Novogorsk we were sharing the facilities with gymnasts, wrestlers, basketball players, ice skater’s and footballers to name a few. Some athletes live there, while others, like us, come in for a few days of intense training before a competition.
The food hall is where everyone comes together three times a day and it was fascinating to see the different shapes and sizes of athletes. There were female basketball players who were taller than me and then gymnasts who were less than half my size. I very much enjoyed the food, it was all Russian cuisine, everything you could think of they had, it reminded me of my family Russian Christmas and Easter gatherings!
The reason for my trip is to play for Russia in the IRB Nations Cup. The competition is run by the International Rugby Board and is a tournament that is designed to give A sides and emerging rugby nations, such as Russia, more competitive matches each year. This year the competition is in Bucharest, Romania, somewhere I haven’t been before.
Russia play Italy A, Uruguay, and Argentina A.
Basically I just turned up and played for Russia in the World Cup last year. From this experience and my passion to grow the game in Russia, I have a strong desire to give back and help in any way that I can. I want to continue my association with Russian Rugby, I want to help them qualify for the next World Cup. That will mean playing in ‘qualifiers’ which begin next year.
The tournament is funded by the IRB and while it is a great initiative, it is interesting to see the big differences in funding of this tournament, to say what we take for granted playing an away game in Super Rugby. We left Moscow at 5am for the airport and flew to Prague where we spent a few hours. Then we flew to Bucharest, where we arrived in the afternoon. Almost a whole day spent in transit zigzagging across Europe when a simple direct flight would only have taken around 2hrs! Also, sharing our hotel are the Uruguay and Portugal sides…we play Uruguay! Well, it could certainly make for an interesting stay depending on how the game goes. I couldn’t imagine the Wallabies sharing a hotel and facilities with any of their opponents in any competition or game that they play.
It is good for me to experience these differences, it is so easy to take things for granted when you’re in the environment of professional sport. However, everyone in our camp is in good spirits and it feels good to be welcomed back.
Our 1st game was against Italy A. After getting off to a great start, scoring three tries pretty quickly, we let in two tries just before half time and our morale dropped. We never got back in the game after that and lost the match. The group has come a long way in a year, but we need to build belief in ourselves. The Russian squad are strong but they don’t know it. They haven’t had the experience of playing abroad so they see competitions such as Super Rugby, Heineken Cup, French Top 14 and believe that because their opponents play in these competitions, they must be better. It will take a good win or two to help them gain confidence, hopefully we can get up for the next game.
On a personal note, I played the whole game and loved being out there. I ripped a chunk of skin off the bottom of my foot, the worst blister/wound that I have ever sustained of this nature! Seriously though, it is bad. I posted a photo of it up on twitter and have already got some replies of people who are shocked! If I am to play in our next game on Tuesday I will definitely need a local anesthetic. But I didn’t come all this way to sit on the sideline, so I will speak to the coach and see what he thinks regarding training before the next game. We brought a squad of 26 so he might rest me, but I will be doing my best to convince him I want to play!
I’ll check in again after our next game against Uruguay.
If anyone has any questions or feedback for Adam please send to firstname.lastname@example.org
Meanwhile, you can follow Adam’s adventure on twitter via @Adam_Byrnes.