Tag Archives: rugby league

Estadio Centenario: Pretty cool, even though it smells like soccer

Back in 2001, Aussie soccer fans were left in tears when the Socceroos were bundled out of the World Cup qualifications after a heartbreaking 3-0 loss to Uruguay in Montevideo. I laughed my dick off because soccer is a game for teenage girls and the physically handicapped, and Aussie soccer fans are the sort of ponytailed wankers who deserve to be tipped into bins, so when in Montevideo I just had to visit the scene of the hilarity.

The Estadio Centenario was built in 1930 for that year’s World Cup, and doesn’t look like it’s been renovated since then. The stadium is old fashioned, run down… and utterly fantastic. Despite being an oval, every one of the 60,000 seats has a great view and is right on top of the action. There are no corporate boxes, the seating is basic, there’s no roof, I couldn’t find any toilets and the Wifi is rubbish, but it has more character than any billion-dollar modern stadium. The atmosphere would be awesome during a big game (as long as you ignore the soccering happening on the pitch).

The razor wire and security moats that separate the various sections of the stadium give some indication of how wild things get during matches, but when I was there on a Monday arvo, the crowd was reminiscent of a Central Coast Mariners game. There were about six other people in the stands and a dozen or so bored-looking birds hunting about on the grass, and the only flares I saw were being worn by a fat bloke with an afro.

In the bowls of the stadium is the Museo del Futbol, which is full of photos of soccer players and World Cup trophies and other stuff I couldn’t give a shit about. I guess if soccerballing is your thing, you’d love it. Apparently the two World Cups Uruguay have earned are housed there, but fucked if I could work out which ones they were amongst the memorabilia, so here’s a trophy that may or may not be one of them.

As I wandered through the displays wearing my Kangaroos jersey, a couple of the workers started taunting me about how rubbish the Socceroos are and lisping “One-nil! One nil! Harry Kewell suck so bad! Juan Aloisi has faeces on his boots!”

“Boys, you need to settle down,” I said, pointing at the badge on my chest. “I don’t waste time watching limp-wristed tossers pretending to be hurt and biting each other’s dicks. I follow rugby league and the Australian Kangaroos, and we haven’t won just two World Cups, we’ve won 14 of the bastards.”

They were curious about what I meant, so I turned on the nearest Commodore Amiga and pointed them towards a few rugby league videos on YouTube. The fellas started hootin’ and hollerin’, slapping each other high fives and pretending to tackle each other. As I looked at some more displays, the crowd around the computer grew, and I chuckled as one little fella wondered out loud, “Why have we been wasting our time with soccer all these years?”

Pretty soon every computer in the museum was blasting out YouTube clips of the NRL’s biggest hits, the 1989 grand final, or Tina Turner’s old Simply the Best ad for the Winfield Cup. One bloke was getting pretty worked up over a compilation video of Nathan Hindmarsh losing his shorts. Another was using the 1928 Olympic trophy as an ash tray and trying to replicate ‘the bubbler’ as he watched some of Todd Carney’s career highlights. As I left I saw one of the fellas pulling down a photo of Diego Forlan and putting up a photo of Johnathan Thurston that he’d hastily printed off his Amstrad computer, saying, “Uruguay is a rugby league country now.” Expect the Montevideo Mud Crabs to join the NRL any minute now!

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See ya the fuck later, Australia!

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I love Australia, and I love being Australian. The refugee-cuddling diesel dykes who stalk the piss-stained alleyways of Newtown might tell you that’s a bad thing, but it’s not, it’s something I’m proud of. So, as I prepare to spend more than two months rolling through Europe, I must admit that I’m going to miss my country.

This time tomorrow I’ll be winging my way to Riga, Latvia, so I’ve spent the last few days loading up on a bit of Australia. On Thursday night I went to see the legendary Kevin Bloody Wilson live in concert at the Davistown RSL, and it was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time. With my brother and father along for the ride, we rocked out to classics like D.I.L.L.I.G.A.F., It Was Over and Living Next Door To Alan.

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In short, it was a fucking awesome concert. Kev was in fine form as he warbled his way through politically-incorrect ditties that would make greenies, pooftahs and towel-heads shit themselves with offence. Not only is Kev a brilliant performer who is able to keep his audience enraptured for hours with little more than a guitar and a smirk, but he’s also one of the few blokes who isn’t afraid to piss of a few softcocks.

Of course, Kev is best enjoyed with an alcoholic beverage or 20, and that’s just what we did. While beer is probably the drink of choice for a balls-to-the-wall concert like this, it was wine that we went with… and lots of it. Enough wine, in fact, that I don’t remember the end of the concert, only waking up under a pile of pillows in the corner of a dark room, feeling like a rhinoceros had been headbutting me in my sleep.

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Today, I backed it up with a trip to the footy to watch the Sydney Roosters play the New Zealand Warriors at Grahame Park, Gosford – just down the road from where I live. It’s a ground I played rugby league at as a kid, and the best footy ground in the world, as far as I’m concerned. These days rugby league is largely banned from being played there due to the mayor of Gosford being the former coach of the local soccer team (and a complete cunt – honestly, Lawrie McKinna, shove a pack of razor blades up your arsehole, you prick), so today’s match will be the only one this year.

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The Warriors won a match the quality of a Chinese condom, but it didn’t matter. It’s just good to sit in stands and watch the footy with thousands of other fans. I had my dad and my friends there with me, along with a few beers, and it was an awesome way to say farewell to Australia for a while.

Well, except for when a fat Warriors fan spilled his drink on my crotch, and a small child pointed at me and said I’d wet myself. That bit wasn’t good at all.

In a few hours I leave on the Drunk and Jobless World Tour of Northern and Eastern Europe, a journey that will take me through weird places like Bosnia and Serbia, where the people speak – and probably smell – funny. I’ll be blogging every single day to let you know where I am, what I’m doing, and who I’m doing. Hold on, it’s gonna be a helluva ride!

 

 

Huddersfield is like my ex-girlfriend – cold, hate-filled and full of ugly Polish men

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After my wild night out in Manchester, I woke up to endless rain and a phone call from my brother. My grandfather had died about the time I’d flown out to England five days before. It was not unexpected, because he was 93, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take. The cold and wet weather outside my window reflected my personal turmoil, as I tried to deal with losing a family member while, literally, the furthest from home I’d ever been.

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Two handsome trains

With the day off to a bad start, I decided to make things even worse by heading out to a town that no visitor to England has ever visited – Huddersfield. Situated halfway between Manchester and Leeds, Huddersfield is a dreary place with ugly people and drab buildings and very little that anyone would ever want to actually see.

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As bleak as Manly’s finals hopes

Well, that’s not quite true. There’s a reason why I headed to this dirty little town in the north of England – back in August of 1895, representatives of 22 northern rugby clubs met at the George Hotel, Huddersfield, to form the breakaway Northern Rugby Football Union. The renegade competition sought to create a semi-professional environment where rugby players could be paid if they were forced to miss work due to injuries, but the movement ended up being far more important that that. For on that cold night in Huddersfield 20 decades ago, the great game of rugby league was born.

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If you see this sign, don’t get off the train

Growing up in Australia, I’d wake up early to watch English rugby league matches, and because of that I was convinced that the biggest cities in that country were London, Wigan and St Helens. So, naturally, no trip to England would be complete without a trip to the birthplace of the Greatest Game of All.

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All they could serve me was a pint of disappointment

The train ride out took me through rolling green hills, but the weather was miserable and couldn’t see a thing. When I made it to H-town, tired and emotional and hungover, the George Hotel was closed for renovations. With the rain tumbling down and the list of interesting site in the ‘field rather limited, I headed off to check out The John Smith’s Stadium, where the Huddersfield Giants play. The journey took me through dilapidated buildings and some of the grimiest, uninspiring streets you could ever have the misfortune to see. The stadium was in a creepy industrial district and I wasn’t able to get too close to it, and while scoping out the area some tough-looking children started calling me a paedophile, so I headed back to the station.

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The Theatre of Bad Dreams

The town is weirdly quiet, and most of the people I saw were either thuggish kids, crackheads, or Eastern European peasants. I looked around to find some food, but nowhere was open, and I ended up buying some weird imitation Twisties from a Polish shop. They reluctantly served me and I swaggered back to the train station never to step foot in Huddersfield again.

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I bet they have to bolt the windows shut to stop people from jumping

If given the option to either spend time in Huddersfield, or have a gold ball roughly inserted into your wee-hold by a man dressed as a penguin, go for option B. It’s an ugly, boring, dreary town with a shit footy team and ugly residents, where dreams go to die and the sun comes as regularly as a pensioner who had his imitation Viagra tablets confiscated by customs after his trip to Thailand.

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The famous ‘uddersfield circular metal thing

 

I took a lot of drugs in Amsterdam and got chased by cartoon characters

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When I rolled into Amsterdam for the first time a few years ago, I only had three things on my mind; beer, drugs, and naked women with big titties. Who cares if it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world, that’s what me – and most other people – go there for. But first I had something very important to take care of – it was State of Origin day, and I had to find somewhere to watch the big game.

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It’s my home! For two days! I hope I don’t get molested by a sailor!

I was staying on a boat moored on the river, so I dumped my bags in my closet of a room and headed out into the freezing afternoon, stopping only to pick up a roadie or two as I waltzed down the streets. Amsterdam might have thousands of years of history and be a melting pot for arts and culture, but I didn’t give a shit about that right then – I had to find a pub with the footy on, and I found it in Coco’s Outback, not far from the city centre.

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Well, at least the beer was wet…

The joint was jammed wall-to-wall with pissed Aussies, so I grabbed myself a long, tall glass of Grolsch and settled back to watch New South Wales pull out a hard-fought 12-8 victory. As the game wound down I got chatting to Clint, a middle-aged miner from Newcastle, and when the less-than-jovial chaps from Coco’s kicked everyone out of the joint five seconds after the final whistle, we both headed to a local Italian restaurant for another few beers.

That’s when I found out Clint’s a bit fucked in the head.

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The incomparable Clint

While I would’ve liked to talk about the footy game, Clint only wanted to talk about his ex-wife. Apparently she was a fucking bitch, a psycho, a slut. I’ve never met the woman, so she probably is, I just wanted Clint to shut the fuck up about it because he was seriously bringing me down. And then he took it a step further.

“Lot of places to bury a body in Australia,” he said, staring me straight in the eyes while taking a deep pull of his Heineken. Shit, now Clint wasn’t just annoying me with his incessant whinging, now the mad bastard was making me an accessory to murder! I needed to get out of there, so I skolled my beer and told him I had to get going.

“Yeah, it’s probably time we left this shithole,” he sneered, looking around. “Let’s head up to the red light district and go halves in a hooker. Whaddya say?”

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Walk out your front door, step on a fish…

While the thought of sharing the orifices of an Eastern European sex slave with a deranged murderer certainly sounded appealing, I was forced to decline. Who knows, the nutter probably would’ve strangled the chick while I was balls-deep, and I have no inclination to become a necrophiliac, even if it’s not my fault. Instead, I headed out into Amsterdam by myself, stopping regularly to drink at the endless supply of beautiful pubs.

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If you think that canal’s wide, you should meet my ex-girlfriend!

It’s a gorgeous city, with sparkling canals, fairy tale streets, and ancient churches and monuments. The city centre is small and easy to walk around, and it’s just a great place to spend time. The weather was atrocious when I was there and I was freezing cold as I walked around, but it didn’t matter because Amsterdam has such a special feeling. And then, as I walked along, the ancient buildings gave way to the decadence and depravity of the infamous red light district.

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It’s the happiest place on Earth!

As I stumbled along drunkenly, I realised it was everything I’d ever heard and more. Stunning women with massive fake tits dance behind huge windows, waving to any bloke who looks at them. Gangs of smashed Pommy tourists wobble along cobblestone streets, beers in hand, loudly debating which brothel to head into. Swarms of Japanese tourists, following a leader with a flag and a colour-coded hat, syphon into X-rated sex shows. It’s bizarre and awesome and disgusting at the same time, and definitely worth experiencing.

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Hello, ladies, who wants 50 cents and half a bag of chips?

After checking out a sex show featuring a barely-legal blonde teenager getting fucked by a black fella with a cock the size of a Chinaman’s leg (I bet she was walking funny after that), I decided it was time to indulge in Amsterdam’s other famous commodity – the drugs. Now, I don’t ever use drugs, but felt I had to in order to get the whole cultural experience, so I didn’t really know how to go about it. All the cafes had menus with various drug-sounding items on them, but I couldn’t work out what was what, so I just kept wandering around and drinking. Finally, I walked into a shady-looking cafe, saw some muffins on the counter, and asked what they were. When a creepy bald man told me they were space cakes, I told him to wrap one up for me, and away I went. Big fucking mistake.

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Before: Not fucked up

I ate the huge muffin an a few bites and chucked the wrapper in a bin, wondering why the effects hadn’t kicked in. Thinking I must’ve been dudded, I ducked into a pub and ordered a beer, grooving around in time to the live band that was playing. I was putting the moves on a big-titted brunette when the music started to echo and the lights around me started to blur. My mind became clouded and I suddenly had to get out of the stuffy pub, so I left my beer (and the big-titted brunette) and burst out into the crisp night air. Sounds hung in the air like butterflies and lights burned intensely as I made my way over to the bank of a canal, holding onto a railing as I watched throngs of people walking by. And then everything changed.

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After: Really fucked up

At once, every single person in the crowd transformed into grotesque cartoon characters, with oversized, pointy heads like the crows in Fritz the Cat. Hundreds of the things stared straight at me, their massive eyes burning through me. As the filed past, every person said my name – it was all anyone could say, their voices deep and dropping with evil. I just stood there, freaked out but, deep in my mind, aware that nothing I was seeing was real. I also knew that I had to get out of there.

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This is basically what happened

As I walked down the dark streets, trying to avoid the crows, I was hit by alternating waves of euphoria and terror. One second a pulse would hit me and the world would be bursting with colour and love, and seconds later I would be hit again and I’d be walking through a rotting cesspit with corpses staring at me. It was incredibly strange, and I was very glad to get back to my tiny room on the boat.

Only it wasn’t so tiny, and it wasn’t on a boat. After closing the door, the room magically transformed into my grandparents’ backyard, with an endless blue sky opening up above. I could feel the grass and smell the flowers. I lay back and stretched out, listening to a light breeze rustle through the trees, and gold fish swimming in the pond. I’d found out less than a week beforehand that my grandfather had died while I was flying over from Australia and, while neither he nor my grandmother were in the garden with me, it was a lovely and peaceful way to spend the night.

And bloody hell, I certainly got my money’s worth on that room booking!

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Carcassonne

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I’ve fallen in love with a lot of places around the world, but nowhere has captured my heart quite like Carcassonne. This little village in the south-west of France has it all – centuries of history, an impressive citadel, beautiful parks and, most importantly, a proud history of rugby league. I spent a single day in this wonderful place two years ago, and the memories will stay with me forever.

I was nearing the end of my trip through western Europe, and had spent weeks on end in major cities, so when I made it to the south of France I headed straight to a peculiar little village in the glorious Aude department. The train system makes travel easy, and the trip into Carcassonne is a joy, watching hills and lakes and forests roll by. And when we pulled into the village, I knew I was in for something special, as I looked over the River Aude to see a medieval castle perched on top of a hill. It was my ultimate destination, but I had somewhere else to go first.

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Carcassonne is a centre for rugby league in France. It’s the home of AS Carcassonne XIII, who play in the Elite One Championship, and the birthplace of France’s greatest-ever player, the legendary Puig Aubert. Stade Albert Domec lies close to the centre of this serene and picturesque town, so I headed over there to soak in some sporting history.

And I saw some really nice things. Seriously, you couldn’t swing a baguette in Carcassonne without hitting something that deserves to be on a postcard.

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Rugby league has a proud and tragic past in France. Introduced to the country in the 1930s, it exploded in popularity and soon rivaled the established rugby union for a place in the hearts and minds of those in the south of France. Then the war broke out, and the bastards at the rugby union assisted the Vichy regime in return for one thing – the banning of rugby league.

Rugby league was stripped of its assets, grounds, players, and even its name – until recently it was only allowed to call itself by the generic name of XIII. After the war, it saw a brief explosion of popularity but, with no money or grounds of their own to play on, it inevitably fell away while union – funded by assets illegally obtained from league – prospered. That’s a very brief summation of what happened, but it highlights why it’s so important that a place like Carcassonne still stands as a home of rugby league.

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Stade Albert Domec is very pretty, and would be a wonderful place to watch a game of footy. It’s hosted World Cup matches, French grand finals, and even saw France defeat the all-conquering Aussies back in 1978. When I sat in the stands, with a few people jogging around the oval below me, I could close my eyes and imagine the atmosphere and emotion of those games.

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Outside the ground is a statue of French fullback Puig Aubert. ‘Pipette’ is one of the greatest figures in the history of rugby league – he led his country to the inaugural World Cup Final, captained the French to a series win against Australia in 1951, and was inducted into the Rugby League Hall of Fame. He was even awarded his country’s Champion of Champions title – the first time a footballer from any code had been so honoured.

Puig led Les Chanticleers through a period of unprecedented success, where the bruised and bullied the Aussies and the Poms, and marched down streets waving trophies while tens of thousands cheered them on.

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But that’s not the best bit. Puig was, well, unusual. He was known to drink a glass of red wine at half-time, refused to tackle opposition players if he felt his teammates hadn’t put in the effort to do so, smoked on the field, and would present his opponents with notes of apology after scoring against them. In short, he’s a bloody legend.

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With my taste for footy history satiated, I turned my sights to the Cité de Carcassonne, the ancient citadel that the modern town is wrapped around. It was built by the Romans way back in the third century, and remains just as impressive today. I was there mid-week and there weren’t many other people around, so as I skipped the hill and then walked in through the gates, I was able to completely lose myself within its historic walls.

I could feel the history living inside the inticately-carved archways and beautiful walls. It’s a magical place, and not just for history buffs – if you don’t fall in love with Carcassonne within minutes of arriving, you’ve got rocks in your head.

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I climbed up walls and sat atop turrets, enjoying the peace and the lovely views over Carcassonne. It’s a small place and everything is within walking distance, so I was able to trace my trail from the train station, through the cramped streets of the town centre, past the bubbling river, to the stadium, and finally up to the citadel.

As the shadows lengthened, I spent hours just sitting there and enjoying the world. It’s such a special place that is one of the most wonderful spots you’ll ever see. As the sun sank beneath the distant hills, watched in silence by me and the ghosts of the Visigoths and the Saracens and the Crusaders, it was the perfect ending to an amazing day.

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