Letter from Australia: Brisbane was awash with various hues of red and gold
BRISBANE was….interesting! From the 24 hour open air pubs and restaurants to the strip clubs on almost every corner. And there there were the topless hairdressers – don’t ask! – and, of course, the Irish pubs full of expats unfortunately living up to the clichéd image.
The main hub was the Queen Mall - off which was the team’s hotel base for both stays in Brisbane – which afforded shopping, alcohol and strippers equal billing for a “fun” night out! It was the street that never slept and was home to absolute carnage for the celebrations after Saturday’s first Test victory.
Saturday started off in glorious sunshine and the heart of Brisbane was awash with various hues of red and gold from early morning as Lions and Wallaby supporters mingled and enjoyed the banter that inevitably flowed.
“I could hear the supporters from my hotel room on Saturday morning,” smile Lions’ captain Sam Warburton when reflecting on the match.
Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip was also generous in his praise of the travelling support and revealed that donned a disguise the night before the game to walk among the ‘merry’ throng.
The trade-off for the sunshine were the varying body-shapes and sizes of the travelling supporters as they squeezed into the replica shirts in the middle of the Mall…you can’t unsee some things!!
*So far one of the biggest concerns in the Lions’ camp for the Irish is forwards’ coach Graham Rowntree’s memory and seeming determination to always refer to the Lions as “The British Lions”.
He seems to have forgotten the words “and Irish” or simply couldn’t be bothered to waste the energy it would take to speak the two extra words!
He did so again in Monday’s press conference before following up with: “I didn’t know Tom Court was Australian” regarding the Irish international’s fortunate holiday plans.
Charming coming from an England coach who counts Samoan born Manu Tuilagi, Kiwi Dylan Hartley, New York born Alex Corbisiero and another New Zealand born - Mako Vunipola – among his national roster.
I wonder what his thoughts are on Riki Flutey and his playing against and for the Lions!
*The Australian hotels’ determination to make a buck or 60 from their guests shows no sign of abating. Again wi-fi comes at a charge. The mission on this trip is to find a hotel that doesn’t charge for a service that surely should be complimentary….?
AUS$66 every three nights wi-fi…ouch!
*The biggest story out of Brisbane was, of course, the injury to Paul O’Connell. An injury Lions’ coach Warren Gatland categorically denied existed in the immediate aftermath of the game on Saturday night and again at the daily press briefing on Sunday morning.
The coach was specifically asked both times if there were any injury concerns. Only Alex Corbisiero’s calf “tightness” he answered both times!
Luckily Ireland’s Tom Court was at home in Brisbane at the time! He was in the Irish Club public house on Friday night and joined the squad on Sunday evening…at which time O’Connell’s injury was “being treated and assessed”!
Less than 10 hours later a telephone call confirmed O’Connell’s Tour was over!
*Still no explanation from the Lions’ camp or management as to why they proclaimed everyone fit and ready both Saturday night and again on Sunday afternoon when asked specifically if there were any injuries...
*The Australian media is finally kicking into gear and their natural arrogance is beginning to come through.
The Australian national newspaper finally devoted almost a full page to the Test Series and even mentioned a couple of the Lions’ players. George North got a couple of mentions, Alex Cuthbert one and Sam Warburton another.
Coach Warren Gatland did merit mention also. For them there is only one team playing!
This follows one of the tabloid’s rather poor attempts at “sledging” earlier in the week. It was all a bit contrived and…well….boring as it only got as far as a little bit of name-calling!