As my 1990 Kangaroo Supporters’ Tour, ‘Regis’ coach pulled up outside the Hindhead Hotel in Surrey, England, I reinforced to my 33 loyal ‘subjects’, that ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do”.
Probably not the right phrase for England, but you get my meaning.
I was keen for our group to try traditional English ales, and to forgo lagers, such as XXXX, which they were used to back home.
While our group entered the confines of the pub, I remained on the coach to chat to our driver, Bob Robinson, from Swindon, about the 35 days ahead.
We had landed at London’s Heathrow Airport that morning, and our first stop was Windsor, where I conducted a walking tour of the Royal town on the banks of the Thames.
Then we traveled south into deepest, darkest Surrey for a pub lunch, which I had organised in advance.
Imagine my horror, when I walked into the bar and there were several members of the group with blocks of ice, floating in their British ales. They had taken one sip of a warm pint of Tanglefoot Bitter, when ring-leader, Bob Smith spoke for the group by insisting on some ice.
It was the exact opposite of my experience with noted English sports photographer, Andrew Varley, on his first visit to Australia in 1984.
I took him into a pub in Sydney’s Rocks area, and he was handed an icy cold schooner of Reschs.
“Excuse me Love. Could you put this in the microwave?” Varley asked, only half jokingly, in his broad Yorkshire accent, as the bemused barmaid tried to make sense of what was happening.
Anyway, back to 1990.
That particular supporters’ tour came about after Brisbane Souths’ chief executive, Graham Kerr and his wife, Jean asked me if I would lead a group, given I had not been assigned to cover the Kangaroo tour for ‘The Courier-Mail’. That honor went to Paul Malone.
The group included a number of prominent league people, including Graham Kerr, Col Egan, Rod Jennings, Tony Davidson, Alan Pilling (Souths); Don Munro (Brothers), Gordon Wright, Athol Neilson, Bob Smith, Len Conroy (Easts) and Richard Welsh (Souths Sunnybank).
Also on the tour were my parents, Jon and Lola Ricketts and their close friends, Ray and Pat Sorenson.
Our destination on that first day was Portsmouth, where we stayed at the Crest Hotel, after a tour of HMS Victory at the Naval Museum, and a pub dinner (fish and chips) at the Wellington, next to the point where the First Fleet left for Australia in 1787.
A three-legged university students’ pub crawl descended on the Wellington, and I heard one of their group mutter something about our convict heritage. They must have known what they were saying, because they couldn’t have been drunk on the English bitter.
FOOTNOTE: The Hindhead pub was built in the 18thC as a country residence for Rollo Russell, whose dad, Lord John Russell, was England’s first Liberal PM. Looking at the pub’s website, it seems most beers on tap now are lagers, so my tour group would be pleased. The notable exception (among the beers) is Hogsback Bitter, brewed in the Surrey village of Tongham.
Photo: 1990 ‘Souths’ Kangaroo Supporters Group, outside our hotel in York.