Wednesday 21 March 2018

Conor George: Lions tour finally roars into Sydney

Conor George

Conor George

INITIAL impressions of Sydney were not great. Arriving under the cover of darkness and with near torrential rain belting down the winter coats finally got an airing 19 days into the 2013 Lions Tour.

It wasn’t pleasant.

The setting was in stark contrast to the serene and picturesque Newcastle, where the Lions played the Combined Country on Tuesday night. Newcastle is gorgeous with a bunch of excellent hotels located along the beachfront.

Following on from the sunshine of Brisbane it’s hard to remember that we are in the middle of Australia’s winter.

Sydney is 158 kilometres south of Newcastle and a very pleasant two-and-a-half hour train journey at the exceptionally reasonable price of $8.50 (€6.05), which is the most value for money yet on this trip…..take note Iarnroid Eireann!

Australia certainly knows how to charge for services. Using your credit card will cost you an extra 1.5% on top of your bill. That’s after all the hidden extras hotels and restaurants like to slip in like a service charge of between 10 and 12.5 %.

Where the Australian hotels are particularly adept at making some extra cash is with wi-fi charges.

The Travelodge in Sydney (Wentworth Avenue) emphasised their “free wi-fi”. What they neglect to mention is that it’s free for the first 15 minutes of your stay and then only in the hotel lobby.

After that you pay different rates for hour, day, three day and seven day periods. The charges differ from hotel to hotel and from city to city. In Perth, Newcastle, Brisbane and now Sydney it’s usually around $66 which is roughly €47.53. Not cheap.

The Lions Tour has yet to capture the imagination of the general populace in Sydney. The fallout from Australian cricket opener David Warner’s altercation with England opening batsman Joe Root at the walkabout pub in Birmingham has dominated the headlines and sports pages for the past number of days.

Warner was fined $11,500 (€8,267.53) and suspended until the first Ashes Test on July 10 for taking a swing at Root.

The “controversy” found air even on the mid-afternoon current affairs programmes with one particularly attractive blonde presenter wondering whether or not sport has become too “sissified".

She wasn’t wrong.

The most startling aspect of life in Sydney is the twice daily “mystery taxi tour” trying to get to the Lions’ training base at the North Sydney Oval.

The cab driver’s first question is invariably ‘where is that, mate’ followed by ‘do you know how to get there?’ also ‘what’s the best route, mate?’ Frustration boiled over yesterday morning with an offer to drive the cab being made.

It was unsurprisingly turned down.

On the field a positive was the sight of Brian O’Driscoll taking part in modified training at this morning’s session. The Ireland and Lions’ legend was full of smiles as he was put through his paces by one of the coaching staff and looked to show no ill-effects from his “splits” episode on Tuesday night.

During their day off on Thursday the backs in the squad (non kickers) took a walk up the frame of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The climb takes approximately three hours to complete and involves roughly 1,332 steps. There were no tales out of school but the word trickling back is that probable Test scrum-half Mike Phillips was not overly comfortable with the height!!

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