Kangaroo Tours

COVERING a Kangaroo tour of Britain for metropolitan newspapers is one thing.

Leading 30 or 40 Australian supporters on such a tour is something else altogether.

Meeting deadlines for a newspaper is tough work, but meeting the expectations of people who have parted with their hard earned for a five week trip, is even more demanding.

But the sense of satisfaction is the same, if at the end of the day you can look back at a job well done.

In 1990 there were 33 people on my inaugural Kangaroo supporters’ tour, which began in Portsmouth and finished in London after extensive travel in England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France and Holland.

I’m proud to say 27 of those people backed up for the 1994 trip which started in Rome and visited Austria, Switzerland, Germany, France, England, Scotland and Wales. We also had 17 newcomers on that trip and blessed with fine weather and great football, all 44 people had a grand time.

I have been to Britain and/or Europe 16 times since my first trip in 1977, when my wife, Marie and I embarked on a Kombi Van tour of Europe, after working in London for several months.

On the flight over we caught up with the Nimbin Tug of War team, which was representing Australia at an international event at Stourpain in Dorset.

Believe it not, Nimbin was a noted farming and timber getting area before the hippie invasion, and boasted a strong rugby league side in the Kyogle competition, with the Soward family (distant relations of Dragons’ star, Jamie) prominent as players and administrators.

So there was no shortage of strong, willing men when it was decided to put together a tug-of-war team which ultimately would win the Royal Easter Show challenge in Sydney, and with it a trip of a lifetime to Britain and Europe.

Sadly, the brave Nimbin lads were ill equipped for the challenge ahead of them, given they had to pull against national teams from England and South Africa. Ultimately they were relegated to lower divisions, which is probably where they should have been in the first place.

The Poms tried to keep their spirits up, even putting on cold lager, a rarity in those days.

But the Nimbin boys felt they had let down the whole of Australia, especially as they were wearing the green and gold.

The main thing is they tried their hearts out, just as the Kangaroos have done on their many tours of Britain and France, and whether watching from the terraces, grandstand seats of the press box I have always been proud of their efforts in the northern hemisphere.

At this year’s World Cup Australia will break new ground by playing at Limerick in Ireland, 46 years after they were first meant to play in the Republic.

In 1967 the Kangaroos boasted players with surnames like Gallagher, Kelly, Gleeson, Hanigan and Lynch and it was thought an exhibition match in Ireland might draw a decent crowd.

But the trip across the Irish Sea was cancelled because of an outbreak of the contagious foot and mouth disease in England and Wales.

Now Ireland has its own rugby league side, although I am predicting an Australian win by 80 or more at Thormond Park, the home of Munster Rugby Union.

I’m sure the Irish will try their hearts out just as the Nimbin boys did all those years ago in one of the greatest mis-matches involving an “Australian team’.

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