HE’S normally found dealing with the aches and sprains of the Newport County AFC academy, but next week physio David Saunders will be representing Team GB in a prestigious Aussie Rules competition.
Saunders, who previously worked with Glamorgan CCC and the Newport Gwent Dragons and who hails from Cwmbran, was also a physio to the elite athletes at the 2012 London Olympics.
However, when it comes to sport, David is just as comfortable playing as treating injuries and he is now ready to jet off to Australia to compete in the 2014 International Cup, which will be contested in Melbourne from August 9 to August 23.
There are 18 men’s and seven women’s teams competing in the 18-a-side event that sees Team GB going up against the likes of the USA, Canada, China and South Africa.
Should Team GB make the final, they will have the honour of playing in front of over 100,000 spectators at the world famous Melbourne Cricket Ground in a curtain-raiser to the Round 22 AFL match between Hawthorn Hawks and Geelong Cats.
David is being fully supported both by the County Academy and his work colleagues at Agile Therapy in Cardiff.
And it’s all the more remarkable considering David has no direct links to the sport which attracts phenomenal sized crowds in Australia.
“About eight years ago I went along to a trial for Aussie Rules because there is a league in South Wales with three Welsh sides,” he explained.
“Within a few minutes I was thinking ‘this is exactly my sort of sport’ I kicked a few goals and scored a few points and it has been a passion for me ever since.
“I’ve had the opportunity to represent Team GB in the past, but it hasn’t always worked out, because it requires time off from work and obviously, as a minority sport we are also self-funded.
“But my colleagues in Cardiff and the County Academy have been hugely supportive and I now to have the chance to play Aussie Rules in Australia, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Saunders is more used to playing the 9-a-side version of the game for club outfit South Wales Panthers, but his occupation is a big help in terms of the required fitness levels for such an incredibly demanding sport.
“I’ve been doing skill work twice a week in the evenings and rearranging local 9s derbies for mid week where I can to allow me to play 18s in London for the Wimbledon Hawks as regularly as I can. As a Physiotherapist I do rehabilitation programmes 5-6 times a day so I join in with my clients now and then. 2-3 short bursts of gym sessions are squeezed in around meetings and clients too. It’s quite good fun juggling it all.”