Sai Lang at the SCG

There was an office drinks starting at 4pm last Friday. It was perfect for the start of our weekend away, as it allowed me to get away a touch earlier. I took off and headed home a bit after 4pm, and a bit after 5.30pm, Tress and I hopped into our car and drove to Tullamarine.

Friday traffic through the city was murder and a multi vehicle pile-up on the Tullamarine freeway didn’t help but we had given ourselves plenty of time and we were expecting the crawl so that managed expectations and helped. We eventually got into the airport a bit after 7pm and by the time we left the long-term carpark shuttle bus to head into the lounge, we were a bit peckish. I got stuck straight away into a pasta salad and the pinot noir on offer wasn’t too shabby either. That set us up for the flight up to Sydney to start our footy weekend away.

We got into hotel very late, so we pretty much crashed out straight away. The next morning, we walked through Hyde Park, took in St Mary’s Cathedral and generally walked around the area. We looked up an app for a coffee/brekky place and found a hole in the wall in Alberta Street, just off Goulburn Street. “Cre-Asion” was a funky Asian café specialising on all things matcha. I had a sanger and Tress had her usual avo on toast and eggs and the food was a ripper. So we had a great feed before heading back to the hotel to freshen up.

When we got into the lobby of the hotel I saw Isaac Smith in the bar/café, talking into this mobile. It then hit me that we were staying in the same hotel with the team. So I hung around the lobby while Tress headed up into our room to freshen up. Seeing players walk through the lobby was quite fun – other than Izzy, Roughie, Shields, O’Meara, Impey and coach Ratten walked past me on the lobby.

Later that arvo we trekked into the heart of the city, had another feed in a Malaysian restaurant, and walked through the city. Tress was super productive in chalking up the kills and points on her phone game and while in the QV building, we saw dozens of folks – including middle aged and greying male adults – firing away on their phone playing the same game.

We got back to the hotel, changed and when it was time, headed to the Sydney Cricket Ground for the showdown. Hawks and Swans were gunning for 4th spot on the ladder, which would secure the victor 2 chances at progressing in the finals. So it was an important game.

The SCG was smaller than the MCG, so while the crowd was “only” around 40,000, it felt a lot more crowded and the cosy, more intimate feel of the place was quite nice. We found our seats, and felt intimidated by the sea of red and white all around us. The brown and gold was very much in the minority and when more Hawks fan turned up on our row, we felt a lot better.

For much of the game, the partisan crowd helped the Swans keep their lead – for as many as 26 points. It was only in the last quarter the Hawks stemmed and turned the tide, eventually edging ahead and winning by 9 points. Singing and hearing the Happy Hawks song after the final siren felt wonderfully different.

After the game, the crowd leaving the small ground created a bigger sense of congestion than the MCG. Tress and I decided to walk back to the hotel. It was only about 2km anyway and the streets were crowded. We had to walk past Oxford Street and the Saturday night buzz was alight. We had noticed the strong LGBT presence while walking past the same strip earlier that morning but walking through it again at night was something else. Long queues of patrons outside many clubs, screened by big, mean looking security teams while loud thumping music and strobing lights throbbed and thrusted outwards, made me glad our night is over, instead of having just begun. I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel to read up on match reports.

We got back, showered and changed into our jammies and hit the sack around midnight.

The next morning we checked out, headed to the airport and in the lounge, again saw the player streaming in. I found myself standing next to Roughead at the salad bar, and said “well done Roughie” which he acknowledged and thanked me. Ditto when I walked back to our seats, and came up to Poppy who looked up and caught sight of me so I mumbled “well done Poppy” and he said thanks very much, sounding like he really meant it. They must have had a lot of practice…

In the plane, we were surrounded by players and it was an amazing experience. Back in Tullmarine, journos were waiting at the arrival hall and it was fun to be where it all was happening. Seeing Shields later in the evening news sports section felt different, having been there ourselves with the mob earlier that day. Tress and I felt and at times, behaved, more like excited 5 year old’s.

We caught lunch in our usual Sunday haunt in Doncaster, did some quick grocery shopping and then headed home to unpack and fetched the little black jedi from the sitter.

Before the last weekend, I was at the SCG about 30 years ago, when I was at a cricket match. Incredibly, Australia beat the mighty West Indies with Allan Border bowling (yes it happened) us to a famous victory. 30 years on, the SCG has been prettied up a little, looking a little more modern now but the traditional feel remained. Being there to watch a really good game of footy, with Tress there next to me, provided a truly magical and memorable weekend away.

We met LBJ’s sitter at the oval and finishing the weekend amongst the many pooches running around in the oval was magical in a different way. As cold as it was this morning (only about 1.5deg) it felt like spring’s just around the corner, in more ways than one. Being interested in footy finals again will be a great start.