Mark & Greg’s Lions Ozyssey – Part 3

Part 3 has arrived which is a good thing as that means we’re on the home stretch. Attending the test matches is absolutely fantastic but in between times there’s only so much sightseeing I can take, not to mention Greg.

We arrived in Melbourne on Monday night. Our flight was delayed by four hours due to heavy fog in Melbourne. This suggested it wouldn’t be quite as warm as it was Brisbane, and it isn’t. With it being late Greg suggested we ate in the nearby casino, Crown. I was expecting a small restaurant area. What I found was a fully functioning food court that would put the Trafford Centre to shame. My head imploded as I’d never seen something so massive (insert your own joke here). Greg said “this is nothing compared to Vegas.” I said “maybe, but it is compared to the Grosvenor on Regent Road.” It’s all about perspective.

On Tuesday we headed up the river to AAMI Park. What an unusual but beautiful stadium. The outside is a series of interconnecting domes reminiscent of the Eden Project covered in spotlights. Inside the seats are varying shades of green, despite the teams based there playing in navy blue or purple. I guess they wanted to be neutral. The game was pretty enjoyable. The Rebels didn’t offer much going forward but their defence was enough to test the Lions meaning each score was greeted with rousing cheers, and the change of chant to “Zebo! Zebo!” was a lot of fun.

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Wednesday we headed to the beach at St. Kilda. It seemed that the Lions coaching staff had similar ideas as Graham Rowntree walked past us while we were eating lunch then later we walked past Andy Farrell and his wife on the pier. These weren’t really occasions for photos so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Thursday night we saw another Classics game. In stark contrast to the first game the crowd was more like what I was expecting (partly due to their being more things to do in Melbourne, but I don’t doubt many were put off by the first outing) and so was the rugby. Colin Charvis, Shane Byrne and many others played some great rugby to run out comfortable winners. That squares the series with the decider on Thursday night in Sydney, however we don’t fly up until Friday so we’re not going to see it.

For Friday’s entertainment we headed to the National Sport Museum, part of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It was an interesting place to spend a few hours, “just a shame it’s all about Australia” complained Mr. Wilson. On the way there we walked over a bridge which gave us a great view of Melbourne’s sport precinct. Here you see the MCG (cricket and aussie rules), AAMI Park (rugby league and union) and Rod Laver Arena (Australian Open tennis) all within walking distance of each other. Doubt many other cities in the world have such prestigious venues to close together.

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Also on Friday our budget ran out. Yes we do have nearly two weeks left. Crikey Australia is expensive. We’ve not quite taken to busking yet but thought that to save some pennies we would go to ‘office drinks’ with Greg’s ex-colleagues. This was as painful as you can imagine, despite the free beer. Unsurprisingly I had my best conversation with the receptionist, someone from the real world, rather than a group of people incapable of putting their empty bottles in a bin. I had an early night, Greg didn’t. The upside was some time alone the following morning…

I started Saturday by watching the ladies game between Powerhouse and Melbourne RUFCs. Greg’s friend Natalie had avoided the drinks the night before as she was playing for Melbourne. From chatting to her earlier in the week I wasn’t expecting too much but was keen to see what level they were at. Boy, was a I wrong. An absolutely thrilling game entailed which Melbourne edged 19-17 with a try and conversion on last play. I don’t want to upset my own ladies but this now sets the benchmark as the best women’s game I’ve ever seen. Plenty to work on on my return.

After that we returned to more usual match prep by heading into town for drinks. The Eccles contingent had expanded even further and we saw some familiar faces.

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Then we went to Etihad Stadium. Having already listed so many great venues earlier I wondered why they needed another, and having been I’m no closer to an answer. To cater for all the pitch is cricket/aussie rules sized, so for rugby the pitch is at least 30 yards from the nearest spectator. We had standing tickets. Back at Suncorp we checked out how standing tickets worked and were impressed by how well organised they were and how good the view was. Here at the Etihad you’re just left to fight for yourself to get the best of a not very good view wedged under the second tier. We decided to take matters into our own hands and look for something better. Through a combination of stealth and cunning we ended up in a block of empty seats close to the players’ tunnel. Even though most of them filled up as we approached kick off time (or 20 minutes in in one case. What’s up with that?) we managed to keep two for us. The view of the game was brilliant with being so low down but I did manage to get some good pics of the tunnel (which would have been even better if not for the whole losing thing).

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If you can take a silver lining from the result it means that next week’s game in Sydney should be one hell of an occasion. I’m looking forward to it already. Just need to survive one more week of Greg first.