Australians love sport. Which is fortunate, because so do I.
And I have been extremely lucky to have witnessed first-hand some great sporting moments during my time down under.
I do like a top ten, so here goes….10 Aussie sporting events where I can proudly say “I woz there”
I wasn’t a great League fan before arriving in Australia, but soon became a convert during the ‘Tina Turner age’. A client sponsored Balmain Tigers at the time, so I got a ticket to see Blocker, Sirro and Junior fall agonisingly short in extra time against the Canberra Raiders in a final that is still talked about today as the “best ever” (Get a load of the newscasters in this news report – shades of Ron Burgundy!)
I’ve been to many Ashes clashes and never forgotten my roots, but I must admit to cheering as an under-siege Steve Waugh reached his century against England at the SCG with a 4 off the last ball of the day. A classic moment.
The Bledisloe Cup has always been a passionate affair and I had the privilege of seeing a game in NZ at a windswept Athletic Park in Wellington. It was freezing cold and the Wallabies looked as if they didn’t want to be there. Perhaps not surprising with Jonah Lomu and his rather large mates bearing down on you through the sleet.
Not a singular event, but two weeks of the most extraordinary positivity. Whilst I missed the blue ribbon events – opening and closing ceremonies and Cathy Freeman’s win, I did get to witness a wide range of sporting events and loved every minute of it. From beach volleyball to weight lifting, from fencing to handball, I was there and I loved it.
In the past, every 4 years, the Socceroos would cruise through their ‘Oceania’ World Cup qualifications and then get dumped out by a team from South America. But this time was different. Over 80,000 crammed into the Olympic stadium at Homebush to see the Socceroos cancel out a first leg deficit and ultimately triumph on penalties. John Aloisi’s winning kick lifted the roof off.
Back at the Olympic stadium again, this time with the white-clad crowd resembling a blizzard as they witnessed Martin Johnson’s England team triumph over a tenacious Wallaby side, ultimately winning with ‘that drop goal’ from Jonny Wilkinson. Heart stopping stuff and an amazing atmosphere.
Once I understood what was going on, I used to enjoy going to watch the Swans and even held a season ticket for 2 years. During that time, I was there to see Tony ‘Plugger’ Lockett kick his 1300th goal which I believe is a bit of a landmark. The crowd obviously thought so too and invaded the field accordingly.
After many years of ethnically-based in-fighting, Football (or soccer as some prefer to call it) was relaunched as the shiny new A-League. Sydney FC won the inaugural Grand Final, captained by Dwight Yorke in front of a sell-out crowd at the Sydney Football Stadium. Including me.
Before it moved out to Homebush, I saw a number of State of Origin games at Sydney Football Stadium. They were invariably, tight and rugged affairs, usually played in the rain. I also remember them featuring a rather large proportion of fights.
Finally, coming more up to date. After witnessing many drubbings at the hands of the all-conquering Aussie cricket team, it was nice as an expat Englishman, to see the Poms turn the tables…and how spectacularly they did so. The last day of the series at the SCG must have been watched by every English person living in Sydney – courtesy of the Barmy Army, the atmosphere was electric
So there you have it. 10 of my personal sporting highlights from my time in Australia.
What about the rest of you? Any Aussie sporting classics that made you glad you got up off your armchair in order to ‘be there’?