Friday 24 August 2018

Overcoming the Unforeseen

The 1st XV Rugby over the weekend – the great historical clash with Joeys – was, in its own poignant way, a metaphor for life. In the final moments of the build-up to the big game, the unprecedented happened as the upright goal post at the southern end of First Field lurched and capitulated under the unseasonal wind, snapping off at the collar that held it firmly to the ground. In disbelief, the crowd of approximately 10,000 who were waiting expectantly for the teams to enter the playing arena hushed, wondering what would follow.

Tense moments abounded over the subsequent hour, as the upright from Fourth Field was extracted, transported by tractor to the main playing field, and installed amid the speculation that the game may or may not be played. Despite these truly extraordinary circumstances, all was in place for a 4.15pm start and what ensued was one of the most intense, hard fought and compelling competitions in recent years. So delayed was the start of proceedings that the final moments were played out in the dark, amid the tension and uncertainty as to who would win – the result of which went to Joeys (28:25) in the final minute of the game. This was a day of fluctuating fortunes, on and off the playing field. But for the many across the generations who continue to come and support these two great schools, both of which committed to the cause of rural Australia, it was one to behold, one that will be continue to be talked about for a very long time. This was a day that saw adversity and unforeseen circumstances overcome, producing the very best of outcomes for both school communities. And, in such a subtle yet powerful manner, it was its own metaphor for dealing with the unexpected and triumphing against it, regardless of the difficulties that emerge and beset the agenda. It is a lesson to take forward as the pressure of the Trial HSC make themselves felt, as nominations for the University Admissions Centre (UAC) beckon, and as preparations for yet another year begin to loom over the latter weeks of the term.

Over the weekend it was difficult to keep abreast of the multiplicity of events that seemed to impose themselves on each other concurrently. But what a gift it was, and one to be truly thankful for. The mothers of the boys in the Graduating class gathered in their numbers from far and wide to participate in the annual Year 12 Mothers’ Mass and Luncheon. From across greater metropolitan Sydney, from some of the most distant reaches of New South Wales and Canberra, and, from overseas destinations such as Suva, Singapore and Hong Kong, parents arrived to commemorate their memorable years at the College prior to graduation, and to spend their final Joeys’ weekend together. The liturgy in the Dalton Chapel, the memories, the shared stories and some very moving speeches mark this as the formal segue to the graduation events which occur in the aftermath of the HSC Trial Examinations and culminate in the Valete Assembly and the Graduation events.

 Hardly had the Ramsay Hall been cleared from the lunch when the TAS Exhibition, profiling the best work of the students in wood and technology, opened in the Memorial Hall. This was another cameo of student excellence, highlighting the sophistication of design and construction of projects of intricate proportions – from rocking chairs incorporating inlaid timber of contrasting grains, to desks with hidden drawers of dovetail joints, to chess boards of consummate quality and craftsmanship. The boys spend countless hours on these projects out of the sightline, but they come together in an arresting array of diverse materials, quality design and exquisite attention to detail. These furniture pieces are destined to become family heirlooms into the future. On the same evening, the parents of the boarding community, many of whom had travelled from overseas, gathered in the Ramsay Hall for an evening of social conviviality. Despite the drought, parents arrived in their vast numbers – from destinations across New South Wales and different states of Australia, from overseas and even a new family who flew from Beijing!! Such is the reach of the boarding community and their sense of association that this becomes a perennial highlight in the lead up to the Joeys’ game the following day.

Sunday saw the Dalton Chapel in heavy demand. In the early part of the day the Investiture Mass for the Proctors – those boys who have been nominated to lead the boarding community in their graduation year, involved the entire boarding community. This was a very rich liturgical gathering as the boys were presented with their ties and their terms of office as part of the Mass. They go forth in their graduation year to lead the affairs of their community, as their predecessors have done for generations at the College. The afternoon saw the Year 7 Mother and Son Mass prior to a dinner in Ramsay Hall. This was another treasured moment for the mums who see their boys moving into the latter stages of the first year of secondary school, young men who are appropriating the values of their education and who will take up that Jesuit mantra of being a ‘man for and with others’.

One might mistakenly assume that in the aftermath of such a busy weekend the routines of school have resumed for a rest. Not so!! Trial HSC Examinations began in earnest on Tuesday and they will assess the totality of course content in preparation for the full demands of the HSC in just a handful of weeks from now. Testing for the incoming students for 2019 has been conducted and students across all year levels move into their own assessment schedules as they confront the latter stages of the term. And, the Senior and Junior Athletics Carnivals were held on First Field during the week. Whilst important events in their own right, they were almost subsumed within the bustling activity of a frenetic week, however, both produced much by way of engagement and community spirit around the grounds and in the Houses.

In the Jesuit spirit of reflection and discernment, we take much away from the last week. The snapped goal post on Saturday is a metaphor for adversity and how we deal with it. It is in responding to the unforeseen with integrity, good will and a higher sense of purpose that such situations will be managed, and in their aftermath, become the indelible memories of triumph and success.

Best wishes as we pass the hump and move towards the latter stages of the term.

Dr Paul Hine