Sometimes, it’s the most wonderful feeling to be wrong. We witnessed all that we had hoped for and more from the Lions on Saturday, as they wrote themselves into the history books with a series victory.
Greeted with yet another gorgeously sunny winter’s day for the last Test, we set off from our accommodation in Surry Hills and meandered to and fro across the city with no real destination in mind. Just like last week in Melbourne there were plenty of folk to meet and there were tickets to be offloaded, but just like last week the philosophy was to immerse ourselves in the occasion and try not to get too stressed about having to be at X at one o’clock or Y at two o’clock. Over the last few weeks I’ve met more people than I expected who were on their second or third Lions tour, but you can take nothing for granted so I was determined to treat this tour as a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity and to enjoy it accordingly!
It’s no fun to be around grumpy fans that are adamant that their team has no chance, so despite my thoughts on the third Test being well documented I had parked any negative thoughts by Saturday morning and was willingly carried along on the Sea of Red in Sydney. In each establishment I dropped anchor at, I listened to the chat and nervous anxiety of my fellow Lions supporters and allowed myself to get caught up the building sense of occasion.
Sydney is synonymous with two of the most iconic images of Australia, and to be enjoying a cold beer with the Harbour Bridge looming over you and the Opera House a stone’s throw away merely served to drive home the opportunity at hand. This day was 12 years in the making apparently, so you could forget about all the talk of fatigue and momentum and selection for a few moments, and allow yourself to think how incredible it would be if the Lions could produce a victory and you were on hand to witness it.
Needless to say I arrived to the stadium a bag of nerves, having failed to meet all the friends I’d hoped to and still with a ticket in my pocket for another friend. But choosing my ground strategically between the bar and the hot dog stand I managed to settle the nerves a small bit, meet another few friends and finally offload the ticket to its intended recipient.
Within minutes of kick off Alex Corbisiero then did more for the nerves than any hot dog stand or bar could, and despite having to endure the period in the second half where the Wallabies closed to within three points, the game and the series felt like it was beyond doubt after 60 minutes.
The ensuing celebrations were incredible fun, with Wallabies fans magnanimous in defeat and already looking forward to the next series as they humorously warned us “Just you wait 12 years…”
The whole night was one of those incredible occasions where you have to pinch yourself every so often to make sure that you’re appreciating the enormity what you’re witnessing. This series may have raised many questions regarding the makeup and format of future Lions Tours, but for me it’s probably not stretching the truth all that much to say it’s been like an addiction. I’ve spent vast quantities of my spare time consuming column inches and video analysis, opinion pieces, match previews, match reviews and every piece of team news or rumour of team news.
All this in the hope that I would get to be a small part of a Lions series victory.
After the initial outpouring of unbridled joy and delight, there seems to be a real sense of relief in the aftermath of the victory. It’s been said before, 16 years is too long to wait and the Lions were badly in need of a series win. In one momentous night a whole new generation of rugby fans got to witness the magic of the British & Irish Lions. Now we can invest in a little piggy bank and start filling it over the next four years in the hope that circumstances will fall in our favour once more, and we get to go on another ‘once in a lifetime trip’!
The only bad thing about it, is that now it’s over. We flew back to Melbourne on Sunday with many other Lions fans to face the cold harsh reality of a looming Monday morning. Emotionally, physically, financially and mentally we were drained, and that flight was the quietest I’ve ever been on. And when my girlfriend and I arrived home, we sat on the couch and wondered “what now?”
I suppose we can wait for the ensuing series of DVDs and documentaries that will attempt to capture the mood and the atmosphere of these last six weeks in Australia as they tell the story of how this latest crop of Lions made history.
In my own head I put a small personal footnote at the bottom of that page of history, which simply says “I was there”.
By Conor Long (@conorlong1)