New Zealand Touch Rugby legend George Albert-Jahnke ranks competing at the 2009 World Masters Games as one the highlights of a glittering 21-year international career and is confident the 2017 edition in Auckland can surpass those heights.
Albert-Jahnke, 40, has starred in the past five World Cups helping his country land the mixed open title in 1999 and is also a regular fixture in the New Zealand mixed 30s team, which has remarkably never lost a major international tournament.
The operations and community coaching manager at Touch NZ boasts a virtually unrivalled CV in the game and he looks back fondly on his experiences at the 2009 World Masters Games, which he describes as “one of the greatest events I’ve ever been to.”
“I’ll always remember the opening ceremony, which took place in the Olympic Stadium (in Sydney), adds the third most capped New Zealand touch rugby representative in history with 69 appearances. “There must have been 20,000 participants march into the arena. It was overwhelming. It felt just like I was at the Olympics.”
“I remember jumping on trains and mixing with participants from all around the world in a range of sports. There was a great vibe and if you wanted to go out and have a good time there were plenty of opportunities.”
At that tournament Albert-Jahnke reminisces that the mixed 30s team he represented was chiefly drawn from Wellington, the city where he is based, and they finished runners-up to a Sydney-based team in a thrilling final.
Yet despite his rich memories of the 2009 Games, the father-of-three who originally hails from Turangi, is insistent that the 2017 Games can be an even greater success.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he says of the Auckland edition of the quadrennial multi-sport competition.” We want to have a bigger and better tournament than Sydney and with the top European and Australian teams coming over to New Zealand (to play in the touch rugby tournament), I’m sure it will be great.”
Albert-Jahnke, a former basketball player for King Country, was introduced to touch rugby as a teenager. He made his first New Zealand representative debut in 1993 and has been an international mainstay ever since.
Boasting blinding speed in his younger days the wily campaigner has tailored his game into more of a playmaker/organiser role and he intends to feature for one of the Kiwi-based teams at the 2017 World Masters Games in Auckland.
So why would he encourage other participants to play touch rugby at Auckland 2017?
“It gives players the opportunity to play at an elite level should they want to, but there is also a real social side to it as well,” adds Albert-Jahnke. “For me the beauty of touch is that it still allows for a competitive outlet coupled with the ball-playing skills of rugby, but without the physical toll on the body of full contact rugby. Playing touch, my body is not battered and bruised the next day. The next morning I can climb out of bed and be ready to go.”