On Friday, 14 October, 17 Remove Netball and 25 Rugby players left a sun-drenched evening in Mill Hill to catch their plane to Abu Dhabi. This being the first time Mill Hill has toured the UAE with both the Netball and Rugby Teams, the Pupils and Staff were looking forward to testing themselves against the best the UAE had to offer. Within hours of landing, the Pupils had found their feet, and the first day disappeared in a blur of netball and rugby training, acclimatising to the heat and enjoying a recovery session in the hotel pool.
The pupils woke early the following day, excited to play their first set of netball and rugby fixtures. Pupils spent the morning with their coaches, completing pre-match meetings where both Staff and Pupils had a chance to discuss tactics for their upcoming fixtures. The Netball teams had a tremendous start to the tour, winning their first fixtures against GEMS Wellington Silicon Oasis 41-2 and 15-2, with both Xarina (Remove, Cedars) and Poppy (Remove, Weymouth) picking up player of the match. The girls spent the remainder of the day driving through Dubai’s deserts in specialist 4×4s before getting the opportunity to experience a Bedouin camp and meal. Meanwhile, the first rugby fixture saw the team play the Dubai Sharks, and with only a few minutes to go with the game tied at 10-10 the Sharks broke the deadlock scoring a try in the corner to win the game 15-10. Kenna (Remove, Atkinson) was awarded the player of the match after an outstanding attacking display.
On Monday, the squads took a well-earned rest and completed their pool recovery sessions after breakfast. Then, the touring party took the short bus ride to IMG, the world’s largest indoor theme park, where they spent a day of adventure on roller coasters and thrill rides.
Tuesday, our second match day of the tour, saw teams preparing for their matches with video analysis sessions from their previous games. The Netball teams took the long journey to Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi to play the Capital Netball Club. Bea A (Remove, McClure) and Poppy (Remove, Weymouth) performed extremely well and were awarded player of the match, helping their teams to continue their winning streak with 12-11 and 17-2 wins. The boys spent a relaxing morning at Jumeriah Beach, followed by a competitive fixture against Dubai Hurricanes at the world-famous Sevens Ground, with the Mill Hill players defending for large parts of the game, scoring two well-taken tries and finishing the game 16-29.
On Wednesday, pupils and staff had an unforgettable day of aquatic adventure at Dubai’s Wild Wadi Water Park, situated in Jumeriah, next to the world-famous Burj Al Arab Hotel. During the evening, the squads visited Old Millhillian Mason Caton Brown, who gave an inspirational talk about his professional rugby league career and his new business ventures whilst living in Dubai.
Thursday, the final match day for the rugby squad, was spent preparing for our last and most challenging match against Dubai College. Dubai College did not disappoint, and it was a game played at pace in the wide channels from the first whistle, with the ball rarely going out of play. This speed took a tired set of Mill Hill boys by surprise, and they learnt very quickly that maintaining possession in the contact area and reducing their unforced errors would be the key to winning the match. The second half was a clear example of the physical and mental impact the tour had on the players, with the College running away with a convincing win by the final whistle. The Light Blue netball team continued their winning streak with a 23-10 win against Dubai Gate Netball Club. Paige (Remove, Murray) was awarded player of the match and Julie (Remove, Atkinson) showed great clearing and driving into the attacking circle, linking up well with her GS Tilda (Remove, Weymouth) The Navy team played a thrilling third match against the Desert Gate Netball Club, with the fixture going down in the final minute with the opposition scoring to win the game 9-8. Caroline (Remove, School) played in GD and GK in the match and led brilliantly from the back, creating interceptions in defence, and transitioning well into the attack. The evening saw the group travel to a Carluccio’s for our team meal, sitting on tables outside next to the iconic Dubai Fountains and the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. The group were able to relax and enjoy each other’s company in an extraordinary setting.
The final day saw the boys experiencing Dubai’s desert. Being picked up in 4x4s from the hotel, they enjoyed an exhilarating dune drive over the golden desert sands, witnessing a beautiful Arabian sunset at a Bedouin camp, followed by a delicious BBQ dinner and entertainment. The Netball teams finished their tour by competing in the Saxo Bank Netball Tournament at the iconic Sevens Ground. Both teams put in outstanding performances, often against older girls making their coaches very proud. The Light Blue Mill Hill team finished 4th overall and the Navy Mill Hill Team finished 10th.
The first-ever joint Mill Hill School netball and rugby tour to Dubai was a huge success, with the pupils coming back having experienced a different culture and building an unshakable bond from touring and living with each other for the past week. Thank you to Miss Gibson, Miss Lilley, Miss Anstiss, Mr Turner and Mr Carte-Goldberg, who gave up so much of their time to help deliver the aims and objectives of this tour. The Pupils and Staff together made this an unforgettable experience, and we are already looking forward to taking next year’s U15 cohort.