On the morning of the Test, I always have to smile to myself as the old people come down to breakfast, all in their Strawberry red, cuddly toys, hats etc. people who think that M and S are the height of fashion suddenly start dressing like teenagers, none of them pulling it off with any degree of confidence. It doesn't matter, getting the support does. You may have thought that the sea of red wasn't in the stadium. As expected the Aussies have a trick or two up their sleeve, making sure that where their players run out, where the anthems were played was a sea of banana yellow courtesy of the ARU. They also 'split' the Lions support into smaller pockets so that they could stop the effects of the singing. Higher in the stands out of tv shot the red was there in blocks. It didn't stop the chanting though- Lions, Lions, Lions.
Brisbane during the day is a lovely city, combining a vibrant business district, river and cafe / beach culture. By the river is an area called Southside, with a beach and 'seashore', where children could paddle, teenagers swim and do the first stages of attracting the opposite sex, ( boys push girl into water, girl screams and giggles.) Grassy banks where you coul watch the world go by. Through the centre of the park was a 1km sculpture that was covered in a purple flowering vine that linked a snow park to a dock, running through an equatorial forest park, with a giant wheel to look at Brisbane and its river from high above. Some Lions fans were enjoying ice- creams soaking up for most of us, the first days of sun we"d seen for a lifetime, or so it felt. This is the height of winter.
Parallel to this there was Alan's of bars, cafes, restaurants, some with a river view, others facing along the Victorian street, where there was a street, one of the first streets in Australia. There was also a market selling food such as chocolate filled bananas, corn on the cob, ice cream, burritos etc. along with the usual candles, new age crap that is no use to anyone other than a prize at a WI raffle. Locals mingled with Lions fans " monkey parading" up and down. In envy bar and restaurant there was the sea of red. On the corner of the road was a Plough Inn, a two storey building with a verandah that was completely red. Every now and then you could here the Lions fans singing. It put the hairs up on the back of my neck.
I managed to meet up with friends in a bar on Caxton Street by the ground. This street is full of bars, again very much 'outside' full of rugby fans wearing red and yellow mingling and drinking together. The road had been shut as people walked through the masses to get to the ground. Ironically in the Suncorp the seats are red and yellow, adding to the clour as the ground filled up. The closest to the Caxton Road experience would be the Millenium, but whether it was th distance from home, the excitement, the weather, it felt more friendly and upbeat.
Inside the ground was chaos, as I walked to my seat, I had to walk through a standing area, where people were congregating, drinking, queuing for beer or food, or loos, along with trying to find the seats. Magic.
I was lucky. I was in an area of the ground which did have quite a few Lions fans. You could feel something special was going to happen. The Aussies, fair play to them, had given it their all, found the singer of Men at Work to ramp up the crowd with a version of 'Down Under", and importantly they had allowed the Lions Male Voice choir to sing a medley of songs associated with the four home nations. This was something that the Boks and the All Blacks had stopped. A sign of the confidence Aussies have, that they can match the best.
The previous night, Richard Hill had called the referee a midget, he didn't rate him. Ironic that they are sponsored by Spec savers as he seemed to miss Aussie breakdown infringements but spotted the Lions ones. The Aussies collapsed scrums and they were re-set. Mmmmmm. Luckily they didn't have their kicking boots on, but were playing in the Uggs that Australia is famous for.
I hope the noise of the ground came over on tv. It was as intense as I have ever experienced. I reckon the Lions won that battle, but with the tricks of tv, that may not have been the perception at home.
The Aussie took the defeat gracefully, although they should have won. The stadium attendance was broken, by the Lions roar.