Being Australian is being less than 42

Just over 12 and a half years ago I first stepped on Australian Soil. Well tarmac or concrete or whatever they used as the paving out front of the pre-MacBank owned Sydney Airport of 1998. In 42 days, an almost final step will take place in an unforeseen journey.

So in order to celebrate the “why” and also to fulfil a promise I made to myself back in February when I first applied for Aussie Citizenship, I hope to do an “almost” daily series of posts recalling some memorable – and perhaps not so memorable – moments since I arrived.

It was probably destined, for example, when the first pub I entered in Australia (the Paragon, I’ll have you know!) was showing the 1998 AFL Grand Final.

I ended up staying in order to adapt my arm to the tiny glasses they serve their beers in over here.

For the record, the Crows won and my first Swans game was the next year at the SCG on a Hot Sunday in August, burning my still Irish skin at the top of the Dally Messenger stand, versus said Crows.

6 years later I know where I was when Leo Marked. Do you? I was at the Warren View watching people run across Stanmore Road to put a blow up Cyggy on top of the statue and lesbians “cracking on” to my heavily pregnant wife.

You might say in Sydney, I should be following the local sports, but as those who know my sporting team predilections will tell you, I can’t abide blue on a football team. And, aside from the accident of birth, it’s red all the way.

Though that doesn’t extend to “Mar-on” (or however those Queenslanders pronounce it). And I can proudly say that while being soaked like a rat in the now disappeared North Stand at the Olympic Stadium at Homebush, I was cheering for NSW in the one and only League match I’ve ever attended. The first State of Origin at said stadium, more than a year before the Olympics were run there.

My only other experiences of Queenslanders at Rugby have, I’m sad to say, been negative. Both the shoddy organisation at Ballymore for the Ireland v Australia game there just three days after my state of origin experience in June 1999 and the overly aggressive attitude in the stands at the Sydney Football Stadium when their lot were towelling “our lot” sometime before Queensland Rugby players realised that dollars paid better than blood in the modern game.

Yes for a while there I got into the Waratahs, despite the blue jumpers. In the first few years here, I craved connection, and my love of sport was where it was at. And yet, despite my love of football, never for the local football teams. Perhaps now it is too late, but back then it was too fractured. And while I tried “Northern Spirit” for a few months, their tight ties to the Hun of Glasgow became too much for me in the end and I moved on.

And in the lead up to the 2003 World Cup, Rugby was good to be involved in. There was interest, I lived close to the ground, we had bought tickets to almost all the games we could get to. Roadtrips to Gosford involved a sea of green, to Adelaide involved a try fest and bone breaks and to Melbourne aching disappointment with empty stadia and poor performance by the Irish 15. All heavily dulled with Alcohol.

The Rugby World Cup in Australia in 2003 also had another fortuitous moment, but of that anon.

I’m reminded last week that while I was at the Melbourne Formula 1 GP when an Irishman took the chequered flag,  I haven’t been back for one since. Also that I’ve never been to a footy match in Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth – so that will need to be fixed.

Starting reminisces on Sport is probably easy, and I could talk about some of this all day, but I really want to talk about the country. How despite it’s depressingly long periods without rain, it’s somewhere worth being going out to. Getting in the car or a bus or a train or a plane and just seeing it. There’ll be plenty of that in the next 40 days.

Come back to read some more as my journey continues.


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