THE LIONS TOUR OF AUSTRALIA: BLOG POST
Date Posted: 02 July
Posted By: barnaby | No Comments
Gary Davies, the Thomas Pink Lions competition winner, continues his blog on tour with The British & Irish Lions
We arrived for our first visit to Melbourne last Monday on one of the many full plane-loads of Lions fans making the journey from Brisbane on the second leg of the Tour. Although Winter in Australia, the weather was like Spring, with cool mornings and evenings, but clear warm days, which showed the city off at its best. Melbourne is very easy to get to know, laid out in a grid of wide main streets served by a good tram system and with extensive shopping opportunities, but also with loads of fascinating interconnecting lanes and alleyways filled with shops, bars and restaurants – many of which were already filling with a sea of red jerseys. We rode the full circuit of the free shuttle bus service which takes you on a one and a half hour trip around all the key sites of the city and is a great way to get a good idea of the city’s layout and key things to visit.
After far too much to eat at one of the bustling Chinatown restaurants, we walked via the cool calm of the central pedestrianised Federation Square and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (currently housing the Hollywood Costumes exhibition), down the riverside to what has to be one of the best set of sporting facilities of any city in the world, with the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Rod Laver Tennis Arena, Olympic Park and several other sports stadiums all congregated together with bridges and walkways interconnecting them all. One of these stadiums, of course, is the AAMI Park (pictured – the design seeming to owe more to The Eden Project than Twickenham), where The Lions beat the Melbourne Rebels on Tuesday – during which our celebration of the Ben Youngs try was caught on television!
A walk down the Southbank took us to the beautiful and tranquil Royal Botanic Gardens, where sitting with a coffee while a harpist plays gently in the background is an amazing stress reliever. A visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol gave a fascinating, if gruesome history of the old justice system in Australia, with deathmasks of those executed at the gaol, including Ned Kelly, whose story is laid out in the various cells that act as exhibit rooms. As we walked through the centre of the city, our attention was grabbed by the advertisements for King Kong on stage, premiering at the Regent Theatre and, intrigued by how this could possibly be done in a stage production, we bought tickets and watched a most amazing display of puppetry and lighting – think War Horse on steroids!
Andy Nicol hosts the supporters Q&A with Warren Gatland and Paul O’Connell
On the eve of the Second Test we were treated to a gala dinner at which Andy Nichol hosted a Q&A with Warren Gatland and Paul O’Connell. Several other ex-Lions and ex-Wallabies were in the room – a further great chance to get some signatures on my Pink scarf by some Legends of the game. On match day, a packed ‘Supporters Village’ was set up at the same pier location behind the Etihad stadium, with further Lions Legends speaking on stage and a very rousing concert by The Manic Street Preachers fuelling the fans’ mood. As the Lions supporters flooded from here into the Etihad, there was a fantastic atmosphere, and the gold shirts in the crowd seemed at least equally matched by red. A second test victory of the tour slipped from the Lions’ grasp in another tense match, setting things up for the decider in Sydney next week.
Back to the hotel to get ready for a 4am connection the following morning for the next leg of our tour.