Captain's Foreword

To captain one’s country is a great honour.  To do so in a World Championship is the highest honour, and a huge responsibility to ensure that the national team represents the country to the best of its ability and at a level that reflects well on the standards of marksmanship at home.  I am therefore very grateful to the National Rifle Association of Great Britain for affording me this privilege and for their confidence in me to deliver on this task.

I have had considerable help in seeking to achieve this objective.  Martin Townsend, the team’s Vice Captain, has been a tower of strength, bringing the ‘been there, done that’ experience from the 2007 GB Palma that has helped this team continue to grow and build on prior successes.  The indefatigable James Watson, the team’s Adjutant, knows my foibles having worked with me on two previous tours, and has kept me ‘on point’.  On behalf of the whole team I would like to thank them for their commitment.

My gratitude is also due to the various organisations that have supported this team in various ways through donations, corporate days and advertising in our brochure. Please support our advertisers in return and thereby reward them. A list of supporters appears elsewhere; I thank them and any others whose names have not been included in print.

Thank you, too, to every member of the team, each of whom has individually stepped up to help out and get certain things done, always in a no-nonsense, effective way. It’s clear that each team member has come to place enormous value on his/her place in a GB Palma Team.  Much credit for this goes to those members of the original squad who were not lucky enough to make this final team.  They pushed hard for a place and, in so doing, have made the selected team all the better.  I told all squad members at the start of the process that their goal was to do as well as they could and thereby make my task impossible.  They did just that, and I am grateful to each and every one of them.

This is an experienced GB team by any standard. Each of us has toured with GB before but, for those for whom it is a first Palma team, I offer my congratulations.  For those for whom it is a first tour to Australia, I can only say that you are in for a treat.  I am biased but Australia will always hold a special place in my heart.  My maternal grandfather was born in Toowoomba QLD, where his father was Station Master and helped save many stranded individuals in the floods of the early 1890’s - yes, like last year, it flooded back then too, and in those days the rescue and clean-up operations did not have the benefit of modern technology.  My own formative years have memorable Australian influences, jackarooing in the Mallee in NW Victoria in 1975, and playing in Oxford front rows in the early 1980s with Bill Ross, Queensland Red and Wallaby international, and Tony Abbott, now leader of the Opposition in Australia. 

But rifle tours to Australia are special - this will be my third, after visiting Tasmania and South Australia in 1997, including the notoriously windy Pontville range, then Perth in 2001 and the magnificently scenic Swanbourne Range. Why is this?  Well the Australia Match – one of the great historic rifle matches – has something to do with it, but there’s more: the banter, the camaraderie, the rivalry, the history and, above all perhaps, the welcome. To the uninitiated and unsuspecting, this can take a surprising form. So if someone addresses you with a term that indicates that your parents weren’t married, don’t immediately assume that it’s an insult because, as likely as not, it’s a term of affection – unless of course you have just beaten him in a competition! And if you think you hear the locals liberally using the French term for ‘apple’ in conversation, they are actually referring to you, as the term “Pommy” or “Pom” denotes a person of British origin. This is not normally a derogatory term, unless accompanied by the adjective “whingeing” in which case the best strategy is not to whinge! Irrespective of the lingo, you can expect a warmth and sincerity that is deep and genuine, and is perhaps special to riflemen because, as amateurs, our rivalry is accompanied by friendships born of a common interest.

The reference to amateur status reminds us all that while we seek “professional” standards in what we do, marksmanship does not come cheap in terms of time and personal commitments, and we owe a huge debt to spouses, partners, family members and employers for indulging us in our pursuit of excellence on the range. I hope that they and all readers will follow our progress throughout the tour and the World Championships by logging onto our website.