Tomorrow's a big day. Tomorrow could be the day I finally nail a series win. In honour of that potential situation, I have spent the day in Sport Heaven. I started at Flamington, onto the MCG, round the Melbourne Grand Prix Track, ending up in the Etihad, followed by a big Sportsman's evening.
Flamington is home to the Melbourne Cup, and in honour of a great rugby stakwart, has a bar called 'Buster's Bar. This was situated right next to the Bookie's Tic Tac area, alongside the ring. I wonder if he's smiling at that? The morning was crisp, as we walked from the start point down to the winning post. It is lined with yellow roses, many of which have yet to be pruned. The view from the stand is back towards the city. As with most grounds there are famous horses, including one that won the Melbourne Cup 4 times - Tulloch. This then went onto race in the States, where it died suddenly, after winning races there. It was just too good, and too expensive for bookies. The course is sited in the Newmarket area of the city, where else? We were early enough to see some horses training on the course, galloping around, which gave a feel for the occasion. Later at the Australian Museum of Sport, there was an exhibition of the style and fashion of the meet. Of course there were no blokes in that, just wives bored by the stats., cups, programmes etc. in the rest of the museum.
From Flamington, we went to the MCG or the 'G' as it is known locally. It is huge. It looms up above the Olympic Park around. It's floodlights are the highest of any in the world, towering above the ground. If they were a building, they would be 24 stories high. The ground is 175 years old, almost as old as the country, or at least the country where people went voluntarily as opposed to on the convict ships. When you enter the ground it looms high above you, so big it has artificial lights to re create the sun. It has the biggest sporting library in the world. It is believed that the Aussie fans will learn to read in there this coming winter, (their summer), when us Poms retain the Ashes. I best say I hope we do, there. I wouldn't want to be accused of Aussie arrogance. Around the ground is the Rod Laver Arena, and Margaret Court Arena, the Centre and Court 1 of the Australian open, with 20 tennis courts around. Alongside is the AAMI Stadium, the Australian Swimming Institue, several AFL Ovals, ,the Victorian Institute of Sport on the site of the original Olympics. Over 50 years since the Melbourne Olympics, the legacy is still there. I hope that London's legacy is the same,.
The Melbourne Grand Prix track runs around Albert Park to the south of the city. During most of the year, you would never know it was there, but for 1 month, they convert it into a race track. It costs the local Government $Aus 17 million to do this. All this while that greedy midget Ecclestone gets richer and richer. I still have yet to understand why he has been allowed to get such control of a sport, and how he remains there. Soccer and Rugby beware. By the way I wouldn't class it's as a sport, more a moving advertisement break.
Then lunch at the Etihad - purely by co-incidence the Lions kickers were practising, so watched Halfpenny, Farrell, Sexton and Hogg. On the way out David Campese was being interviewed for tv. It's not the number one sport here, but it's getting huge coverage on tv. Walking around Melbourne, there's players and people everywhere.
In the evening I went to a gala dinner, paying silly money for it, and it was worth every silly penny, even if I did have to wear a dress- a red one of course. The first people I bumped into were Joe Roff, Jeremy Guscott, Andy Nichol and Scott Quinnell. Had to have their picture taken with me. During the meal each of them telling stories about touring. Scott Quinnell's favourite moment was when BOD was sparring with Austin Healey, who had invited him to box, and hit him several times. Turns out he was an Irish schoolboy boxing champion! Guscott was his usual arrogant self, playing up to the image. We lost in 1993 because he didn't play well. Then Gatland and O'Connell came in for a chat. last Saturday's referee put in his report that he was surprised by the intensity of the experience. (And he understands rugby?) Gatland hinted that this was an indication that he was out of his depth.
Melbourne is the food capital of the Southern Hemisphere. There are cafes, street food and restaurants everywhere. Gatland told the story of Thursday night when he took his wife, daughter and boyfriend, parents, in-laws out for a meal in a restaurant. On the next table was Robbie Deans, Aussie coach. He asked him how his week had been. Apparently his week had been 'shit'.
The real passion of the evening came when Gerald Davies spoke. As an Arts graduate of Aberystwyth University, he is obviously well educated, just like me! He talked about the Magic of the Lions, and his dream of playing for them, in lands with palm trees and sun and dry grounds, as opposed to Llanelli, rain, and mud. He is quietly spoke, but his passion came over strongly, as he quoted a poem by Browning, which I will mis-quote: " A man who aches for things that are beyond his grasp and gets them, then what is heaven for? If I was playing tomorrow, I would be walking over hot coals for the team, after his speech.
The frustration is on a night like this, it's impossible to get all the questions down. I hope that from time to time I remember them, but what a night!