What a time for a sports journalist to take a holiday!
It was September, 2000; the Sydney Olympics were being held, and my editor told me to go on leave!
You know what. I was quite happy to do so, because in October and November I was to work seven days a week for most of that two month period, covering the rugby league World Cup in Britain and France.
When I returned to work, (after watching the Olympics from the comfort of my lounge room), my first assignment was the Australia v Papua New Guinea stand-alone Test in Townsville.
Australia won 82-0, against a PNG side captained by Sydney Roosters’ star, Adrian Lam. The scoreline was a sign of things to come in the northern hemisphere, with the Kangaroos a class above the other countries.
The crowd was 21,000 in Townsville, and their favorite was Torres Strait Islander winger, Wendell Sailor, who scored three tries. Close behind Wendell, in the popularity stakes, was local boy made good, Gorden Tallis who scored FOUR tries.
After the match, I caught, what is politely known, as ‘the drunks’ bus’, back to town, where I was staying. I would still be at the stadium if I had wanted a cab.
The build-up to the match had included a dinner for the media, hosted by the Australian Rugby League. Coach, Chris Anderson told several hilarious tales about his late father-in-law, Peter ‘Bullfrog’ Moore, the former Canterbury-Bankstown chief executive and a former Australian team manager.
After the PNG Test, ‘Townsville Bulletin’ journalist, Ben Vernon took to me one or two watering holes, one of which he referred to as ‘the ferals’ pub. It was fine – good beer and live music.
Australia had one more domestic international before they headed to London for the World Cup, and that was against a New Zealand Residents side at Gosford.
It was a farce. Australia won 108-0, with ‘Mad Dog’ Adam MacDougall scoring five tries. The Kiwi outfit was coached by Gerard Stokes, a former Kiwi Test player and father of future England cricket star, Ben Stokes. (Ben has a British passport, courtesy of his father’s long career as a player and coach in the UK).
In the curtain raiser, the Junior Kangaroos defeated the Junior Kiwis 48-10.
The Junior Roos included the likes of Justin Hodges, Brent Tate, Brett Finch, Mark O’Meley, Ash Harrison, Braith Anasta and Corey Parker, while the Kiwis’ outfit included Sione Faumuina, Willie Manu, Roy Asotasi and Jeff Lima.
Photo: Chris Anderson.