The invincibles -- Group 18 boys take England by storm
By BOB ANTHONY
THE Tweed Byron Group 18 under-16s development squad has added to England's sporting woes, returning from its six-match tour undefeated.
Yesterday the touring party of 34 players, coach and support staff arrived home to a heroes' welcome at Club Banora.
Proud parents, families and friends greeted the "tourists" with streamers, banners and the Australian flag, leaving the boys in no doubt their achievements were fully appreciated by all back home.
The group's six matches included a game against the English national 16s champions, Wigan St Patricks, but they could not halt the Group 18 boys' perfect record.
Team captain Jayden Kelly said the tour was "simply fantastic".
"We set ourselves a high standard before we left and were able to maintain that over there," Kelly said.
"We were unsure of just what to expect and found some of the teams pretty hard, but I am proud of the boys and the way we came together."
Kelly said the hardest thing to deal with was the different interpretations of the rules, while the highlight was the team's winning streak.
Coach Tod Martin was full of praise for his players and the way they conducted themselves both on and off the field.
"By the time we came to our last matches against Wigan, the English were pretty determined to try and stop us going through undefeated," Martin said.
"Against the Wigan boys, they stacked the sides with a few 17-year-olds, but our players still managed to get on top of them in what were tough matches.
"The boys really bonded together on the tour and we have made some very strong connections with the English clubs, particularly the Wigan clubs."
Martin said there were also some opportunities for the touring group to learn a little about English culture and history, visiting sites both in England and Wales.
"I think they appreciated learning about the rich history of the place and meeting their counterparts in England," Martin said.
"We also had seats to the English Super League grand final sitting in among the Leeds supporters which was tremendous, especially since they ended up winning," he said. "These young men were a credit to the region as ambassadors and I think this trip will stay with them always.
"This has been a very productive experience for all concerned, thanks to the support of Tweed businesses and the Gold Coast Titans."
Martin said the tour's success would potentially open doors for English sides touring, and he would urge the Group to carry out similar tours in the future.