The Final Test
After hitting a massive brick wall of tiredness last night I slept fine but also decided not to do anything too extensive this morning so I headed back to bed to try another couple of hours sleep before heading out to stock up on lunch before the warm up for the final test began. I also sorted everything out for the early morning start tomorrow, laid out the clothes, put the piles ready to put in my handbag in the morning. I couldn’t have been more organised if I tried!!
Headed down to Darling Harbour with Sophie’s folks & met her there as we did our usual pre-match ritual of a plate of pasta before heading to meet any of the others, this time for Kangaroo Court in the bar close to where we were boarding the boat. Sadly only part of the group was on time and as we had to help out with wrist banding everyone before they boarded the boat we missed out on it and the court was disintegrated pretty much. Tho I did later see one of the group with his shirt on back to front – I guess not everyone got away without any punishment then!! (Perhaps I should have found some proper rules and set them up prior to ‘court’ such as the ones here)
The timings for boarding & disembarking were very tight due to the sheer volume of people that we had to get on. Loyally all my lot could be seen near the front of the line as it swelled with a mass number of people all joining at once. Finally having got all 351 of us aboard we set off around Sydney Harbour all aboard the Majestic 2.
I excitedly collected my ticket off Fliss on the boat, got a drink & headed up to the very top deck where I could see the majority of my group had set up camp. One of them, it transpired, had left his ticket behind at the hotel hence the delay in their arrival! As a result he was, of course, dually trialled! Sophie was also presented with her punishment for her multitude of foot in mouth moments on tour – none of them will be shared as the saying goes ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour!’
The night soon set in as the boat left the dock and the view from top deck was spectacular. Back over the view of the lights of the CBD and the Harbour Bridge all lit up. It was stunning, simply stunning. The breeze set in quite heavily and soon I was alone with my thoughts. I stood there still pinching myself that this was all happening, and had happened. How lucky had I been? How grateful was I to my checking twitter & seeing that tweet back in May?!! I soaked the sight in, taking the mental pictures in my mind to ensure that they would stick, somehow I don’t think that my photos would come out of the views from the boat. It felt weird that this time tomorrow I’d be part way through the flight home, that the most amazing time would all be over.
As we docked it was a case of directing the passengers in the direction of the right bus. Lots of shouting pointing, smiling & waving and success! Off we headed, in what can best be described as old style school buses. Not quite what was expected, but they actually worked quite well as, being shorter backed it enabled a more relaxed and chatty atmosphere and so it’s really hardly surprising that the songs started up – in force!! Hilarious as we had a few Australian supporters on the coach too & our driver was only on his second ever drive in the bus! Classic. The journey went by quite slowly, or it might be that it was actually longer than planned – either way we got there and after explaining in no uncertain terms were they to hang around after the match in the stadium. We were on such a tight schedule with the mooring for the boat for the journey home we really wouldn’t be able to wait for anyone. Frustrating if we win, yes but sadly we could do little about that.
So in everyone ran, I had to find a loo before I went in which I managed to achieve – always the epitome of relief at every level! I had a feeling I’d be walking for quite a while once I had gone through the gate before I found one.
I took stock once more when I finally made it to the gate that I was due to go in. I paused for a fag & took in the mass of the stadium. Soaked up the moment. This was the third test of the Lions & win this and this evening, that boat home is going to be rocking!!
Having gone through I realised that I had quite some climb ahead. Like the car park at Cabot Circus – I listened to the noise from inside the stadium as I slowly made my way up in my own little world as everyone else had gone ahead. (mas was I glad I’d ‘powdered my nose’ when I did!) I was sat on my own too but – you know me – that’s not going to stop me enjoying it!! I was on my own for the RWC ’07 final after all!!
I finally made it up top and was only about 3 entrances down from the rest of the group. I soaked it all in, took the photos of the stadium on camera & iPhone to be able to savour this for years to come, hopeful at this stage that it would be for the right reasons!! Thankfully the kick off was delayed by about 10 mins and so in my slow moving state I managed to miss not a second of the match.
The atmosphere was electric. I can’t even begin to describe it. Nothing like that will I ever feel again. The anticipation of what was possible, the nerves – oh god the nerves. From all the jumping up and screaming when we scored in the match and the points totted up. I’m glad my nails are fake, they would have been gone! I didn’t relax fully until the last 5 mins of the match – anything could happen still. Dreams could be shattered. But they weren’t, they bloody weren’t!! I hugged & kissed & screamed with those around me come the final whistle. Close to tears, still not really believing that I was actually here, that this was all happening. That we had done it. We had won!!!
I left the stadium a few mins after the final whistle, I saw the initial cheers and celebrations – everyone running on. Halfpenny deservedly winning man of the series but listened to the award ceremony as I battled my way out of the stadium against the Australians heading home with a humongous grin on my face. We’d done it. We’d bloody done it, & I was there to witness that amazing moment.
I LOVED that the first person to text me as soon as the whistle blew was Linda. Without her input & support I would never be here walking back to the coach welling up with excitement & tears, desperate to see someone that I knew to bounce around & celebrate with. Getting back to the coach there were the Australian contingent already aboard but watching everyone else roll in jumping smiling & cheering, was something I’ll never forget.
Thankfully the coach trip back to the marina was shorter as we were at a different location to board. The crush of getting everyone on in time was insane but we managed to do it. Even if we had to take a slight detour on route home to pick Vic & a few clients up who were left behind. Fliss, Sophie & I celebrated the win together & the tour success in general with a glass of bubbles before heading onto the boat to share the win with the rest. It’s safe to say that the boat home was indeed rocking!
Disembarking it was a multitude of hugs saying goodbye to everyone, with my ridiculously early transfer to the airport in the morning I was not expecting a leaving party!! It was so rushed & so sad but still so exciting to have won. I just knew that the come down when I eventually made it home would indeed hit, and hit hard.
We headed into a bar in Darling Harbour with Vic, Fliss, Sophie & Rachel (the official photographer) for some bubbles to celebrate. I can only assume that the others that had said that they would be in there didn’t make it in due to their lions shirts. There were very few (none) in sight in there, that’s never bothered me before why would it now?LIIIIOOONNNNSSSSSS
I headed back to the bar opp the hotel to catch up with a few if my group before eventually hitting my bed at around 4am after final packing & quadruple checking the alarm was set for 730am the following morning. What a three weeks in such wonderful company discovering a small part of a beautiful country I am sure I’ll be back to see more if at some point. To bed, the early morning start & the absurdly long journey home awaiting. One last excitement in the morning of catching up with the Parsons on the flight home.
Thank you Australia. You’ve been amazing. I have 3 weeks of superb memories that will last me a lifetime. Bring on New Zealand in 2017!!