When I was a kid, I supported the Baggies, (still do). My hero was Jeff Astle, a no nonsense centre forward, one of the best headers of a ball ever, and understood that he represented the hopes and dreams of the Black Country, when he pulled on the shirt. Years later I met him and he became a mate. He still went to the Baggies, still supported them, wasn't jealous of the silly money paid to players with half the ability he had, because he understood that he had lived the dream.
Whilst I've had my photo taken with Richard Hill before, I've never had chance to really talk to him. Again I would say that he is one of the best back row players, ever to play for England, because he could play 6, 7, 8 and was never dropped by Clive Woodward and had the Lions had never lost whilst he was on the pitch. He wasn't flashy or ever really in the spotlight, but teams didn't function properly without him. He has just had his contract ended by Saracens, and faces an uncertain future, probably similar to Jeff when he was surplus to requirements at the Baggies. Loyalty only goes so far. He wasn't bitter and hoped that he could stay in rugby in some way. He told me that rugby had given him so much. Both never forgot the fans, but both sadly paid a high price. Jeff lost his life with brain damage, Richardu limps from knee damage,
Back to Australia and today's adventure. I went on a bus trip to Lamerton National Park, a World Heritage site. I went up two mountains Tamborine Mountain, named after an Aborigine tribe which somehow has manifested itself as a tourist trap selling fudge and jam. The weather was imported from the UK, cold grey anddrizzly to visit a sub-Tropical rain forest. A real yin and yan place. From a distance green and verdant but up close it destroys itself, with vines strangling the trees until the rot from inside, trees that grow as quickly as possible to get above the canopy and stay so thin that they become top heavy and break. Up to 20 different ferns, fungi, and even orchids are parasites that live off them. In the heart of the forest the only colour is green at this time of the year. This made the multi-coloured parrots quite striking as they flew in, completely tame to land on people to see what they had to eat.
The second half of today's post involves an Eve of Test event. Andy Nichol was the host, with the
panel being Mick Galway, Richard Hill and Elton Flatley. All top blokes and really funny. Nichol geared the questioning to get the laughs and rugby stories. They were nearly upstaged by a woman who fainted next to me. Shiny new wedding ring suggested that this was her honeymoon, no doubt combined with jet lag, beer, and a hot room and over she went. A doctor was called who managed the situation allowing her to sit on a chair. Mmm brave girl being able to sit down on her honeymoon.
Andy Nichol told his story of his aliens caps. Twice he was called up as an injury replacement. The first time he played 6 minutes against Taranaki in 93. The second time, he was on the piss as part of the Lions tour package. Richard Hill reminded him that he was on the piss with him in Sydney after he was ruled out on thenThursday before the final test. Austin Healey was ruled out with a back
injury and Henry tried to find a replacement. The only other one was Gareth Edwards who was 55
and so he was called into action. Nichol had sobered up on the Friday as he wanted to domthenHarbour bridge walk and you have to be sober, so he was declared to fit be on the bench. His dad, watching from the rugby club in Dundee was surprised to see his blood shot eyes son, thinking he was the mascot. He didn't get on, but when he got home, he received a check for £4.5k win bonus. This was for the win in the first test, when he was in the crowd watching the win at the Gabba.
He also said when he roomed with Mick Galway on a supporters tour, where they didn't actually see each other for 4 days as Galway was still on BST, drinking all night and sleeping all day so wasn't jet lagged at all. Galway also asked Flatley why Aussie beer was so shit, and he hadn't had a pint of Guinness since he got there.
Richard Hill was asked about the 97 success and what was behind it. He said that the English were really quickly attuned to professionalism, and the Celts knew how to drink. They swooped ideas.