Over the next three days, the trialists are put through their paces with lessons and testing on all three of the elements of the Three Day Event. Dressage to test the accuracy and obedience of the horse, cross country to test stamina, courage and athleticism and show jumping, which on the third day of competition, tests a horse and rider’s ability to back up after the rigours of the cross country the day before.
All rode dressage tests, cross-country courses and show jumping rounds and it was a serious test of man and beast and all under the knowledgeable and watchful eye of Franz Mairinger. The standard over the last four years had improved dramatically. Instruction and regular competition had done a large part of the work, now Mairinger must narrow down the numbers to what he believed would be a Team capable of bringing home a gold medal. Franz was full of self-belief that he had seen enough of the Australian riders and Australians in general, to recognise their resilience, commitment and never say die attitude.
Mairinger’s intention was to build on what the Australians already had – natural talent. As with working with a young horse, a smart rider takes the horse’s natural attributes and temperament and works with it. It would be a crime to dismantle the personality of a young horse and try to make it something it is not, and a good trainer/coach takes what he has and adds to it but never loses sight of why he chose to start with that horse in the first place.
Franz had plenty of experience with this and intended to apply his wisdom and experience to his new charge, the Australian Eventing Olympic Team.
The trials were over and Franz had assured all of the trialists that he would address them individually as to why they had or had not made the Team.
Roycroft and Morgan were chatting between themselves as Horden and Mairinger stood talking to the four continental trialists, who had come back from competing in Europe to try their luck for Olympic selection. The two men feared a decision had been made. Was this a congratulatory conversation?
The standard of horsemanship over the last few days had been outstanding, Roycroft and Morgan recognised this. It was a far cry from the trials four years previously; neither would be surprised if they did not make the final cut. Roycroft felt once again he had held his own, he only hoped they didn’t play the age card. Even Morgan, with his supreme confidence, was nervous and was reading bad news in to the conference taking place on the veranda.
Mairinger shook hands with the four riders he had been conversing with and approached Morgan and Roycroft.
“Thank you gentleman for your efforts over the past few days, I’m sure you agree that the standard of riding was outstanding. You are both to be congratulated. At your age, all noticed the level of the commitment you displayed. The standard of many of these riders improved, as they were aware of competing against you two gentleman.” Mairinger paused for a moment and it seemed he had been giving a ‘don’t call us we will call you speech’ then he continued. “You must also be congratulated for your selection in the Australian Eventing Team for the Rome Olympics.”
Relief flowed through the two men and a warm feeling of pride overwhelmed them, they had done it and they shook hands emotionally with each other and Mairinger. “Thanks Franz, we won’t let you down.” Franz replied, “I’m sure you won’t Laurie and you will captain the Team.”
Morgan had proven to Mairinger that he was the best man to lead the Team. He would always lead by example; Franz had never met a more driven individual. Morgan would expect of the Team no less than he expected of himself, absolute commitment. Roycroft shook Morgan’s hand again, “Congratulations mate, you are the man for the job.”
The team announced is Laurie morgan riding “saled days” Bil Roycroft on”Sabre ” neil Lavis on”Mirrabooka” and Brian Crago riding “our solo ” has made his second team he has a point to prove after his efforts at the last games when he gave all to rescue the horse of the fallen german rider, he has grown considerably as a person over the last four years his experience at the previous games will prove a great assistance to the team, he is painfully aware of how close they were at the last games he individually had finished 4th without the drama of the fallen horse he would have taken a medal. The team he has around him has all the potential needed to go to the next level. In reality cragos horse was not up to speed he had performed well at the trials but every one including crago doubted his ability to go all the way. Bill Roy croft had two good horses both capable of taking bill to the games, it was decided that Brian would take one of bills horses, Bill had a soft spot for his big horse sabre, sabre was a good sized horse, Bill had schooled him from the start and they clicked well as a combination. Our solo was a bit smaller he had started out as a polo cross horse so was a little more touchy to ride but ridden well he could hold his own with sabre. Brian was a little fellow more suited size wise to our solo, bill decided to keep sabre and hand solo over to Brian he was a little tricky but hopefully things would work out.
The final preparations would commence immediately; the men would stay with Mairinger in Bowral and train twice daily. Mairinger was also keen to build on the Team ethic and he had arranged for the men to gather with their horses at a location on the south coast of NSW. There was no further information and the men arrived as directed.
Morgan observed, “It’s a pub, are sure this is the right place Bill?”
“Those were the directions.”
“Okay, let’s go in and see what’s up.”
On entering the pub, the four men encountered Franz Mairinger who was dressed immaculately with pressed trousers, a white cravat and his green Australian Olympic blazer.
Franz was excited to see the men and there was a sense that this meeting had been planned and choreographed. A table was set for the party in a private corner and as the men entered, five beers were brought to the table.
Mairinger greets the men with warm handshakes. “Gentlemen, please be seated.” He looked at each man, “Firstly let me welcome you to the start of our Olympic campaign. We are now a Team. We will represent this country at the upcoming Rome Olympics. You and your horses have been chosen as this country’s best chance at success. However, there is a much more important reason that you are all here. Let me explain. Four years ago, the Olympic Committee presented me with this jacket. When I enquired as to these two strange creatures that are on your Coat of Arms, I was told one was an emu, a strange looking bird that can’t fly, and the other was a kangaroo that can only hop. My immediate thoughts were, what ridiculous creatures to have on a country’s Coat of Arms. You see, I am used to a country showing their strength by having creatures such as eagles, lions and even dragons on their Coat of Arms. This year, I was given my second Olympic blazer and I asked Mr Horden why we have these two animals on our Coat of Arms. His answer was simple; they’re both native to Australia, and their significance is that neither can take a step backwards. That simple answer made me realise that not all about this country and its people is always, as it seems. You see gentlemen, you have been chosen because I believe that you too have shown that you will not take a step backwards. And I have a feeling there is more to learn about you, the Australian horseman.”
Mairinger had every intention of building this Team into a tight unit that must be willing to die for each other. They would show respect and dedication to their Teammates and each man will give his all.
Swimmers love to win a race but there is no greater feeling than to win a relay as part of a team. A surfer enjoys riding a wave, but five men sitting shoulder to shoulder in a surf boat as it screens down the face of a wave, share an experience that can make your heart feel like it will burst through your chest. To develop this camaraderie was a major part of Mairinger’s game plan, he knew that this mateship was part of the Australian culture and it was something that he admired greatly and he would use it to the Team’s advantage. It was also something he himself was keen to be a part of.
Lavis, who had spent time with Mairinger in training over the last four years, knew the man very well. He would fit nicely into the Australian way and Mairinger had already proven himself as a mate and mentor to Lavis. “Too right, Mr Mairinger, there ain’t anyone here who’ll take a step backward.”
Morgan loves the feeling Mairinger has created with his simple speech. “We’re with you Franz. What have you got in mind?”
“Firstly Neil, please call me Franz, we are all equals here and I have as much responsibility as any man at the table. Our Olympic preparation prior to leaving for Rome will be broken into two parts. In the first part, you will teach me about mateship, being Australian, and the National Anthem.”
Mairinger takes a map from his top pocket and places it on the table in front of the men. Pointing to two Xs on the map, Mairinger says, “We are here.” Whilst pointing to the second X he says, “We will ride as a Team to here.”
Lavis looks at the map intently, “Jeez Franz, that’s about a two week ride!”
“Gentlemen, look at the map more closely. We have five days.”
Roycroft pipes up with a knowing smile, “We’re goin’ over the mountain range fellas.”
“Well done Bill, exactly.”
Morgan points to the second X on the map, “And what’s here Franz?”
“That gentlemen, is the beginning of the second part of our preparation.”
The barmaid arrives with a second round of beers, “Anything else Mr Mairinger?”
“Five meat pies and please keep the beers coming.”
Mairinger raises his glass and toasts to Rome, the men raise their glasses and Morgan adds “To old man emu, never a backward step.”