So after months of preparation, hour after hour of recruitment and a rigid schedule in place to meet our 8:05 train from St Pancras the UK contingent of DreadLAX began to assemble at the train station.
As the departure time ticked ever closer it became apparent that the final two DreadLAXers were going to be cutting it fine if they wanted to make the trip. In traditionally nail biting fashion the train was three minutes late to depart and the two wayward travellers were still not on board.
Despite this early set back the rest of the team took advantage of the train journey to start with some games to lighten the mood and get in the spirit in time for the mid-day arrival in Brussels.
After settling in to a bar outside the station to await the late comers the advanced party kicked back with a few local beers and took in the atmosphere. An hour later the stragglers arrived and joined in the fun while we waited for the connection to take us to Tilburg.
The train ride through Belgium and the Netherlands was good fun and after meeting some new Spanish and Italian friends and finishing the last of the beers (and Jägermeister) we arrived in Tilburg to find the good weather had come with us.
The ground was a local hockey club with the games taking place on three astro turfs and the fields next to it being used as the campsite for the weekend. We were off to a great start! The teams were assembling and having a few beers while they erected their tents as DreadLAX arrived to do the same. The teams at the TLC hailed from the Nederlands, France and Belgium, whilst DreadLAX had assembled our most international team yet with players coming from Norway, Britain, the Netherlands, Poland, Serbia and Germany.
The first night was a party at the club house to get to know the other teams and meet some old friends. Despite a good showing the DreadLAXers did not win the beer pong tournament but had a good night regardless. Other activities included a re-run of Gladiators around an obstacle course and some truly epic dance offs.
The next morning was the start of the tournament proper and DreadLAX hit the ground running with two nice wins following a lengthy lightning delay. Despite many of us playing together for the first time the team was gelling well with only a few instances of confusion.
The afternoon saw us drawn against the pre-tournament favourites The Straighteners, a Dutch based tour team made up of some past and present Dutch U-19s and players from the Dutch champions Amsterdam as well as other clubs around the league.
The game was a tough one with both sides playing hard but DreadLAX came out second best going down to a great team, the goal keeper in particular was outstanding. DreadLAX’s Norwegian contingent once again proved an awesome engine room in mid field all day and despite the loss we took heart that we could give them a good run should we meet in the final as we hoped.
The tournament was timed to coincide with the biggest funfair in Benelux hitting Tilburg. This billing didn’t prepare us for just how amazing that night was in Tilburg town centre.
Having showered and done some international networking over some beach volleyball in the campsite we made our way in to town to be faced with the entire town centre having been pedestrianized. We could hear the music from half way there as the whole town came out to party! All over the centre were huge fairground rides, stages with live music and DJ’s, pop up bars were everywhere you looked and the clubs and bars spilled on to the street. It was one huge party, and DreadLAX loves a party. Huge conga lines, fairground rides reaching way above the city skyline mid lightning storm and a city full of people having a good time.
The night was superb and despite the torrential rain there was some serious street dancing and drinking going on. Most of the tournament attendees were in a single bar and DreadLAX took to the stage. After a long night the teams made their way back to the campsite to get a couple of hours sleep before the semi-finals started in the morning.
DreadLAX assembled at breakfast to find we would have a similar day of opposition as we were drawn against hosts Tilburg in the semi with a possible match up against Straighteners in the final. Some of the team looked slightly the worse for wear, but after a solid European breakfast (meat and cheese obviously) the team was raring to go and ready to start the day with a bang.
The game against Tilburg was a good one the result went to the good guys with DreadLAX coming out on top. Over our lunch break we watched Straighteners make their way to the final, with a win over a Ghent side that gave them a good game despite coming out with the loss.
With the stage set for an epic rematch the teams took to the field, DreadLAX vs the Straighteners round 2! Sadly the result was pretty much the same as before. Struggling to get any possession at the face off X DreadLAX were starved of possession and the frustration showed. With the Straighteners playing some very sensible lacrosse, their stranglehold on the game secured them a solid victory.
A second runners up position for DreadLAX this tour season was a bitter sweet pill to swallow. Being so close to fall again at the final hurdle was tough, but with such a great tournament, tournament venue and off pitch festivities, no one could be upset for too long.
As we packed away our tents (or swapped them for stash) we reflected on the different journeys our multi-national squad had to take home, with the Brits having probably one of the shortest compared to the Norwegians and the Czechs. Or so you’d think…..
The quick train ride in to Rotterdam and then on to the airport was spiced up as one enterprising DreadLAXer checked on the status of our flight. It was cancelled. On arrival at the airport we found out the pane hadn’t even made it to Rotterdam at all, what to do? Quick investigations found that there was no further room on any other flights departing that Sunday evening so there was no alternative but to stay in the Netherlands for one more night. Best of all it was on the airlines buck!
Courtesy of the airline we were checked into an “interesting” airport hotel where; the bar closes for the summer and the kitchen shuts at 21:30!!! A little negotiation later saw mixed grills all round and bowls of chips up and down the table with pints of beer in front of all. A vegetarian lasagne had somehow made it out as well. As the chef finally had to go home and the “barman” (whose other roles included driver, bell hop, waiter and probably more that we didn’t discover) closed up shop most of the remaining squad retired to their rooms.
A small cadre however persisted, determined to make the most of another night in the lovely Netherlands and embarked on an adventure into the local town to find a bar for a night cap. Success followed success with a small party long into the early hours, the perfect way to finish off another wonderful tour.
A huge thank you has to go to the organisers at Tilburg, a truly fantastic tournament with great food, great parties and great lacrosse. It was great to see how much effort went in to it and how that was reciprocated by the international flavour of the teams that turned up and took part. DreadLAX with their most diverse squad to date were proud to be a part of it and although again we finished second in the tournament, took first place for fun, partying and stash! Thank you ArchLevel Factory and Sports Scientific for the uniforms and decaled helmets. See you all in Turkey for the next installation on the tour circuit for 2013!