Team USA Eagle 7s Captain Matthew “Polar Bear” Hawkins, despite being a husband & daddy and coaching SDSU, takes the Thursday slot on RWU.
COLOMBO, SRI LANKA – This week I come to you from a part of the world that is rarely spoken of in terms of rugby. Sri Lanka. More known for their cricket achievements, Sri Lanka actually has a thriving rugby community and myself and a few other foreign players find themselves immersed in the rugby world and culture.
It all began about 3 days ago when I boarded an Emirates flight from San Francisco to Dubai. 15 hours on a plane is nothing to joke about, but as usual the wonderful air hostesses on Emirates, made the trip easy and comfortable. I had a 6-hour lay over in Dubai where I met up with teammates who had just come in from there showing at the Pan American Games.
Finally, the last stretch was a 4-hour flight in to Colombo. Upon arriving, you immediately were greeted by the thick wall of humidity that grips this country. We were all on separate teams for this tournament, The Carlton Sevens, so we were all looking for our names on the the little boards that everyone had waiving around at the exit.
I unfortunately could not spot my man, so I decided to jump in with Bok [fellow USA Eagle Mark Bokhoven] and his driver and hope that I found my way to where I needed to be at some point, but my sole focus at that point was getting somewhere to shower and brush my teeth and throw some deodorant on. 30 hours of travel really narrows down what you want out of life at that point.
Driving through the streets from the airport to Colombo, the first thing that comes to mind is just the absolute controlled chaos that you find on the roads. There is a constant honk of the horn and the lines that separate the lanes become a complete blur and I guess the best way to describe a drivers attitude, is “you hesitate and it’s over.”
Through this chaos, I found my team the Northwestern Blacks. We are being put up at The Cinnamon By The Lakes, a great hotel with all the amenities you could think of. It is a great group of guys with a couple foreigners sprinkled in. I have my side Diego (Portugal), Rockie (NZ), Ronnie (Fiji) and two coaches Willie (NZ) and Sale(Fiji). So a real diverse bunch. I got my first taste of practice this morning, where we spent a the whole time in torrential rain that would have scared anyone else away, but we made the most of it, by getting some good fitness in which included plenty of up downs that had us duck diving continuously which took me back to my school days which was the only highlight. Following the training session, I was introduced to the Sri Lankan massage which by all accounts was amazing but definitely an experience that i will not forget.
On trips like this, you look back and realize how special rugby is to you and how it really does transcend boundaries and the special people you meet. I feel very privileged and can’t wait to take the field this weekend with the group of boys we have.
P.s… Be sure to watch the Frano Botica interview.