Mark & Greg’s Lions Ozyssey – Part 1

I’ve been asked to share some of our adventures here on the website. I appreciate this won’t be of interest to everyone, but if it isn’t you can just stop reading, it’s not hard.

Our flight was at 21.05 on Saturday 8th June. Manchester Airport is an eerily deserted place at night as we one of the last flights to leave, but it certainly makes getting served at the bar easy. What happened next was 25 hours of boredom. I can’t really say anything good about it other than I survived. However Greg “I don’t really need sleep” Wilson managed to sleep through about 20 hours of it which was quite an accomplishment. We arrived at 06.30 Monday morning local time in Sydney and headed for the hostel. Some weeks earlier Greg had suggested cancelling our booking for the Sunday night as we wouldn’t really need it. I said we shouldn’t because we didn’t want to arrive knackered on the Monday morning and be stuck without a room because check in wasn’t until later. Apparently I was ignored, which was the first of a recurring theme this holiday. The rest of the day was a semi-conscious blur of waiting around.

On Tuesday we traveled north to Newcastle for our first Lions game against Combined Country. To be honest I found the whole thing a little disappointing. I expected the ‘red army’ to be traveling en mass and buzzing about the game. There were quite a few fans there but most were happy to have a quiet drink. This was later reflected in the game as the Lions won comfortably without really trying. Still struggling with jet lag I have to admit I nodded off a couple of times. Afterwards there was only one bar still open (it’s a pretty small town) so we headed to The Brewery. There we found people in better spirits, I’m sure only in part due to the amount drunk. We met Queensland Reds’ Beau Robinson, who had been scheduled to play in the game but was eliminated by Maku Vunipola’s head a week earlier, and chatted to Tim Metcher who had started the game at hooker for Combined Country. He didn’t change my view that the game was a bit of a pointless exercise, but he certainly enjoyed it.



The rest of the week we were up to typically touristy stuff travelling around Sydney. On Friday it appeared the Lions players had been given leave to do the same as we bumped into Tommy Bowe with his girlfriend, the Youngs brothers having lunch with Tom Croft and Dan Cole, Tommy Bowe and his girlfriend, Mako Vunipola and Richard Hibbard, Tommy Bowe and his girlfriend, Matt Stevens, and Tommy Bowe and his girlfriend. Seriously, a stalker wouldn’t have been able to keep as close watch on the Ulsterman, and we weren’t even trying.



On Saturday we headed to the Allianz Stadium (surely they missed a chance at punning on the name?) for the Waratahs game. This was much more like I expected as the atmosphere was brilliant. Although there was a small Lions section, who must have been on the official tour, for the most part it was red and blue shirts sat next to each other having great craic, especially when the Lions elected to kick penalties rather than run them. Our seats were spectacularly good. I really must thank the person who sold them to me on ebay for face value when most others were going for double that.

allianz seats


On Sunday we returned to the Allianz Stadium, this time to check out Sydney’s favourite sport, rugby league. Former All Black Sonny Bill Williams was in action for the Sydney Roosters, and was still showing some of the skills that made him popular. Also in the crowd, hiding in plain sight in the oblivious crowd, were Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton, Alex Cuthbert and George North. We went and said hi at half time and they were gracious enough to pose for a photo (if you can call what Cuthbert is doing posing).



Today we should be heading to Canberra to watch the final warm up game before the first test, but Canberra is just too difficult and expensive to get to (and we need to save all the pennies we can when beer is around £5 a schooner (425ml)) so we’re going to see what watching a Lions game in a foreign pub is like. Then tomorrow we pack up our troubles and head north to Brisbane to acclimatize before the first on Saturday.