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Country Week – A little bit of history

Mr Brad Goerling is a long-time teacher at the School, who was instrumental in having Bunbury Cathedral Grammar attend its first Country Week in 1994. Attendance at this yearly sporting carnival has now become a rite of passage for many of our students. Mr Goerling recounts some history of our School involvement over the years.

Country Week is considered to be the largest of its type of event in the Southern Hemisphere, bringing together students from regional Western Australian schools to compete across a variety of sport and non-sporting events.

Country Week began in 1924, originally as an Australian Rules Football Competition. It was paused for a decade during World War 2 and recommenced in 1951. Over the years, more sports and events were added, to reflect the changing societal trends and breadth and diversity of sport played in our state. Girls hockey started in 1952, Netball in 1954 and Speech was the first non-sport event included in 1974.

The competition in the modern era was originally only opened to Government schools. Our School was the first non-Government School to compete in 1994. At the time, the Football Commission, buoyant with funds from a successful West Coast Eagles team, sponsored the Australian Rules Football competition at Country Week, merging their regional competitions (which were open to all Schools, not just Government). I asked them- ‘where do we play?’ The reply was ‘at Country Week’.

The next challenge was to convince the School of the merits. With students required to complete ‘normal class work’ during the week, the Senior staff supported this proposal. Our first team included myself and Simon Midson, supervising 20 boys at the ‘luxurious’ Rivervale Hotel. With minimal budget we survived on nutritious precooked packs prepared by Mrs Goerling, some risky cooking by the boys and ample supplements available by the emerging price war amongst pizza delivery franchises.

“This first team had a wonderful time- both on and off the field, wining the Grand Final by 35 points against Pinjarra. I mention one player in this team, not because he was the best player, but because he went on to an elite career. Jaxon Crabb, a Year 10 student in the team, played some AFL games with West Coast and Port Adelaide, then captained Claremont, won a Sandover Medal and successfully captained the Western Australia side. In many ways he is symbolic of so many of our students who have played sport at this School level and gone on to have elite sport careers.

Our next involvement was in 1996, when Netball and Girls Hockey joined the Boys Football team in travelling to Perth. Again, success followed. Netball was ably led by Mrs Sutherland, and the hockey team was coached by the passionate Mrs Osborne. In the following years, Boys Hockey, Basketball and Volleyball teams competed and for a long time, the School attempted to field a team in every sport or competition, to demonstrate our commitment to the event.

While most of our teams have been highly competitive at Country Week, our philosophy was more about placing teams in grades that they could experience both challenge and success. We have consistently been a top five team and have placed runner up several years in the last decade. In the Meritorious Shield, where results are considered in relation to student numbers, we won consistently.

It would be remiss not to mention the extraordinary success of the Netballers who have won the A grade competition  at every championship since 2013. This unmatched achievement is extraordinary and something of which we should be proud, as we should of our wins in the Meritorious Shield and the long-term success of Speech and Debating under the tutelage of Judy Wall.

Country Week would not be possible without the support of staff. Our students have been fortunate to have the strong support of tremendous staff, with vision and commitment. Mr Dale, probably has the record for involvement with the greatest range of teams having managed or coached in Football, Soccer, Basketball and Volleyball.  Other contributors of very long standing in guiding our students so well, who are still on staff (not previously mentioned) include Mr Dawson, Mr Cowan, Mr Poller, Mr Lincoln and Mr Bancroft.  Mr Reid has taken the organisation of Country Week to great heights as Sporting Co-ordinator and his joy in student achievement is always apparent.

Many former students will have fond and vastly different memories of Country Week. Some will be sports based, some social. They may remember the exploits of their team, perhaps a mishap or shenanigan, a hire bus wedged under the Subiaco underpass, the team song resounding after a win, the culinary delights, a karaoke or river cruise or the fun.

I believe the rewards of Country Week participation are more profound and long lasting than any silver-plated cup or zinc alloy trophy. The development of individuals and teams are significant. Normally a tremendous camaraderie and spirit develops among those attending, character strengths are exercised, and positive emotions come to the fore. Over time acceptance grew of the great value of the event, as physical development, team skills, sportsmanship, leadership, friendships, personal and social development became increasingly evident to all. Engagement with schooling can be grown enormously with things beyond the classroom to the overall benefit of students. Striving for attainment and a healthy competition encourage the best of efforts. Strong relationships are forged. I think Country Week ticks all the boxes of PERMAH. Plus, it can be a lot of fun! Let the Games begin!


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