A Football Trip to the Top End

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What was the trip to the Top End of Australia about for me? Well, more than one thing obviously, however it all came about when a mate of mine suggested that we head to Cairns to see our beloved football team (Aussie Rules) the Western Bulldogs take on the Gold Coast Suns. The club is not the richest in the land but we get money from the AFL to play one of our home games three and a half hours away from Melbourne in the tropical town of Cairns.

The football club does a great job of it running clinics and bringing Australian Rules Football to a region of Australia that doesn’t see much of it, being a rugby area. I was a little worried about the cost of the trip with my South American trip only two and a half months later, but when we found tickets there for around $100 each way (keep in mind this is like twice the distance of Melbourne to the Gold Coast) my wife and I were in.

Players sign autographs.

Players sign autographs.

At clinic.

At clinic.

And we decided we might as well make a proper break of it and take a few days – it turned into four nights. It worked well because it was on the right weekend of my fortnightly work schedule and I’d basically just miss two days of work.

The accommodation was booked a month beforehand. July is a busy season for Cairns, with the south of Australia in the grip of the cold people can’t help but want to briefly get away to the tropics. Prices were not cheap and there wasn’t much value for money either – review of the place I stayed at is coming soon.

Still it was nice to getaway. The weather as it turned out wasn’t much warmer than home, apart from the Sunday it was around 23 degrees Celsius for a maximum. Still it compared to maximums of 12-14 in Melbourne. But it was windy, a little rain occasionally (and a LOT on the Monday when we flew out). Just being in Cairns, in a relaxed laid back sort of place was good. Even if I did need to buy a jumper!

But the football. Well, on Friday morning there was an open training session which I gave a miss because, you know, I was trying to sleep the three weeks or more of work beforehand off. I attended a session for kids and for autographs. The club ran a workshop for the kids, and afterwards they signed autographs and posed for photos. All the kids went first and then there was a small group of adults waiting for their chance. The players were brilliant – every single one very friendly, professional, no issues in posing for photograph after photograph.

Day before - a snap with player Clay Smith.

Day before – a snap with player Clay Smith.

With players Jake Stringer and Lachie Junter.

With players Jake Stringer and Lachie Junter.

There was a session at the Cazaly Stadium bar/undercover section of talks as well which was nice although we didn’t stay for all of that.

Cairns is not an AFL town but it had a little buzz about it thanks to the game. Signs up here and there about ‘AFL in

Waiting in Central Cairns at Bus Stop.

Waiting in Central Cairns at Bus Stop.

Cairns’, and it was shown live on TV there which isn’t that common for Aussie Rules. And soon game day arrived.

 

On the bus to the game!

On the bus to the game!

Except that well, it was a night game. So we explored the foreshore and town a little which was nice. They had organised free buses from the centre of Cairns out to Cazaly Stadium. Full of the red, white and blue of the Western Bulldogs. And around four people sporting the red and yellow of the Gold Coast Suns. The buzz increased. We were told there were only four buses running the route up and back which looked like, well, not enough. Still made it to the ground and quickly inside.

Bulldogs run onto ground.

Bulldogs run onto ground.

The crowd starts to build.

The crowd starts to build.

The crowd was 8,500 compared to well, an average of maybe 30,000 at home in Melbourne this season, but the ground itself is a really nice ground, my only criticism being that the centre was so much higher than the perimeter it made it had to judge where the players were when on the far side of the ground.

There were stall set up for typical sports food – hot dogs, hot chips and the like. And fairy floss too – was this a carnival? It had a carnival atmosphere. Oh, but the prices were typical of sports events in 2016, two waters, a lemonade, chips and hotdog, over thirty bucks! Ouch!

Also I bought a couple of shirts from the Bulldogs tent. The game started, we had gotten there early enough to grab seats on at the very front. The first half the bulldogs played some exciting football and were well ahead at half time. The second half was less interesting, but still a win is a win!

The ground shortly before the start.

The ground shortly before the start.

Clay Smith with the first score of the game.

Clay Smith with the first score of the game.

On the bus to the ground I bumped into someone who sits within a few seats of me at my reserved seat in Melbourne! And then again the next day, and would you believe they were the seat in front of me on my way home on the plane?

It wasn’t a ‘high-charged’ football weekend in Europe with fights and destruction, but I really enjoyed my trip to Cairns and back. It was a more relaxed affair, and we came back to Mebourne with the points. Have you ever followed your favourite sporting team interstate or far away to cheer them on? Please comment, and May the Journey Never End!

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