THE LIONS TOUR OF AUSTRALIA: THE FINAL BLOG POST
Date Posted: 09 July
Posted By: barnaby | One Comment
After the tension of the second Test in Melbourne, we had the chance of a few days recovery on the beautiful Hamilton Island where we stayed at the Reef View Hotel which, as the name suggests, has stunning sea views from all of their rooms. Although away from the rugby venues, quite a few Lions fans had made the trip to this island to soak up sun, sea and sand and the climate of tranquility was maintained by there being no cars or motorbikes on the island, travel being by golf buggy or shuttle bus or just walking between the hotel and the Marina. By this stage of the tour, we recognised many of the Lions fans travelling in the party, which made for a very friendly atmosphere, and several of us went by catamaran to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef and picnic on Whitehaven beach. After the statutory breakfasting with koala bears and visiting the local wildlife park to see wombats, dingoes, kangaroos and a particularly large crocodile lying behind a sheet of glass that looked worryingly thin, the day was capped off watching a beautiful sunset from the top of One Tree Hill, which the hotel sets up with a cocktail bar each evening for the small crowd that gather to watch the sun go down. And then…… back to reality.
Gary and Warren Gatland
The short flight to Sydney brought us back to the ‘Sea of Red’, with far more fans gathering for the final Test than we had seen at any of the previous venues. As you walked around the harbour in front of the Opera House, the red shirts carpeted every café and every bar in sight – a really impressive spectacle. On the Friday afternoon, we did the Bridge-walk up to the summit of Sydney Harbour Bridge – an unforgettable experience with extraordinary views and certainly, in our view, the number one thing that anyone visiting Sydney should plan to do. On the eve of the Test, we were again provided with a Q&A from some more legends of the British and Irish Lions at our hotel, including Alan Quinlan, Will Greenwood, Scott Gibbs and Sir Graham Henry at which several rugby anecdotes were shared – many of them unrepeatable here!
On the day of the final Test, after a leisurely trip on the ferry to Manly and a Skype call with the family to watch my wife open her birthday presents with the children (thank heavens for Skype!) we took the very well-organised train service (free if you had a match ticket) from Central Station to the Olympic Park and entered the Lions Supporters’ Village where Andy Nichol did a great job hosting a programme that included a Q&A with Shane Williams and a concert by The Manic Street Preachers. The atmosphere amongst the huge number of fans gathered here felt noticeably more tense than it had at either of the previous tests indicating the importance of this match, but as the red shirts flooded out of the venue and across the park to the ANZ stadium, the supporters found their voices once more and, to the strains of “LI-ONS”, we all entered the stadium for the final decider and to proudly watch the 2013 British and Irish Lions team as they carved their names into rugby history.
I could stop there, but the flight connection in Hong Kong afforded us the opportunity to watch from the television at the Cathay Pacific lounge (again with Andy Nichol) as Andy Murray carved his own name into tennis history – there was no way that flight was boarding early!
I didn’t dare dream when I picked up Pink’s Lions 125 Year Anniversary Scarf a few months ago that I could actually win the competition for this trip, but may I take this chance to sincerely thank Thomas Pink for providing me with one of the most incredible three weeks of my life.