Monday 18 December 2017

Letter from Brisbane: One Direction and Rugby League are king here

Jonathan Sexton during the training session at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane today
Jonathan Sexton during the training session at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane today

By Conor George in Brisbane

Brisbane photographer: “Mate, who’s that I’ve taken a photo of there?”

Journalist: “That’s Brian O’Driscoll.”

Welcome to Brisbane…where One Direction and Rugby League are king!

It was somewhat disconcerting to pick up both the local newspapers The Courier Mail and The Australian and see images of an Irish/English boyband attempting to entice into Coles Supermarket. What was more disconcerting was that the two page advert in the Mail occupied more room than that afforded tomorrow’s game between the Queensland Reds and the Lions.

But at least their three rugby union stories spread across one full page and two columns of the next was more coverage than the half page devoted to the Tour in the Australian!

The seven pages given over to the Rugby League State of Origin same between the Reds and the Lions gave a fair indication of which code is king in Brisbane!

State of Origin is the annual best-of-three series of rugby league football matches between the Blues and the Maroons, who represent the Australian states of New South Wales and Queensland, respectively.

Players are selected to represent the Australian state in which they played their first senior rugby league, hence the name ‘State of Origin’.

Game two of the three game series – which NSW lead 1-0 after their 14-6 victory in Game One on Wednesday night – isn’t until June 26 but still the Lions are the poor relation in comparison. In these parts at least!

One of the abiding memories of Perth will be Lions Team Manager Andy Irvine’s performance at the trivia quiz hosted by the HSBC which saw members of the Lions coaching staff and the travelling press corps mingling at the Team Hotel.

Two of the questions in the round of “Lions Trivia” were tailor-made for Irvine referred directly to issues central to his former career.

The biggest guffaw of the night came when Irvine came up with Jonny Wilkinson when queried as to which Lions’ player holds the record for the most points scored.

Irvine was included on Three Tours, played in nine Tests (42 Lions appearances in total) and scored 274 points.

Wilkinson has been on two tours (2001 & 2005), has six Lions caps and 67 points scored.

There were still claims that a fix was in when Irvine’s team won the quiz, especially as they also included Warren Gatland among their members and another couple of questions spoke directly to his coaching career…he got them right!

The much more pleasant Perth and Brisbane climates have been a welcome relief after the heat of Hong Kong with the players all delighted to be in friendlier environs. The supporters are also starting to arrive in larger numbers.

A multitude of northern hemisphere rugby shirts were in evidence on the streets of Perth, including a couple of stray Leinster and Munster shirts while the Lions emblem has been very noticeable over the last number of days.

Nice as Perth is the supporters won’t have been too sorry to move on because of the expensive cost of living.

A trio of English supporters extolled their tale of woe at having to hand over AUS $38 for three pints of Guinness…around €28. Neither did it help that Perth became very sleepy once darkness fell...soon after 5pm!

Brisbane is a far livelier place and will welcome the bulk of the supporters for the first Test back here on June 22.

Irish Independent

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