7th July The Colonial stadium in Melbourne, the scene of the Wallabies comeback, does not know whether it is coming or going. In four days it staged Aussie Rules, rugby league, rugby union on Saturday and Aussie Rules the following day, which meant that the ground staff had to work throughout the nights, changing not only the markings on the pitch but the advertising hoardings.
I am staying in a place called Kew – yes, it does have a garden – which is about a 40 minute tram ride outside the city. With deadline looming for the Independent on Sunday, the tram shudders to a halt after a passenger throws up not once but three times. The population on the vehicle parts like the Red Sea, leaving the poor wretch isolated. The driver yells: "You in the black shirt, get off the tram.''
Black shirt did not have a clue. "Yes, you in the black shirt with the bits of carrot around your mouth, get off the tram.'' The penny finally dropped. Passengers joined in the chorus. The poor wretch stumbled out of the tram and was nearly hit by a car cruising up the inside lane. He would not have felt a thing.
8th July Despite this unfortunate setback, Melbourne is a huge improvement on Canberra, which is like Milton Keynes with frost. On the day of rest I visit Melbourne Old Gaol. This is where they hung Ned Kelly while his mother, an Irish lady of fiery temperament, was doing the washing a matter of yards away, in the prison laundry. It is a chilling place, colder even than Canberra or a Donal Lenihan press conference.
9th July Melbourne Airport is choc-a-bloc with red shirts travelling to Sydney for the denouement. All the flights are over-booked, including mine, and I'm bumped off to a later one. I find myself sitting opposite Ian McGeechan, the coach not only of the successful Lions tour to South Africa in 1997 but the last Lions visit to Australia in 1989. He thinks the Lions will win the third Test as indeed does Finlay Calder, the captain in '89. Clive Rowlands, the manager on that tour, is not so sure. "It's all about heart,'' Rowlands says. McGeechan is surprised that the Lions flew economy class from Brisbane to Canberra. He is also surprised that the Test players made the journey to the Australian capital instead of spending the week in Melbourne.
10th July The Lions are staying in a seaside hotel in Manly, across the bay from Sydney. If the idea was to find a quiet bolt hole, it failed. Manly sounds like the middle of Cardiff market on a Saturday afternoon.
Matt Dawson will be in for the injured Rob Howley, renewing his English partnership with Jonny Wilkinson, who has recovered from the leg injury that saw him taken off on a stretcher in the second half of the second Test. And Austin Healey will be on the right wing for Dafydd James. The press corps, which is getting bigger by the day, want to interview three players – Dawson, Wilkinson and Healey. None of them are made available. This is down to the manager, Lenihan who, for example, regards the outspoken Healey as a loose cannon. The Irishman's precise word for the Leicester Lip is "dynamite''. Frankly, I've had it up to here with the Lions management. They're treating us like a bunch of schoolchildren and, by never attending press conferences on time, are working us to the point of exhaustion. We can't take much more.
11th July There had been mutterings below deck earlier in the tour of a players' mutiny. This evening they had the perfect prop to enact such a scene. Zurich, the sponsors of the English Premiership, hired the Galleon Bounty in Sydney harbour and we were press-ganged into boarding the vessel. Despite the fact that the boat looks older than Charles Laughton, it was built in 1979 for the remake of the film Mutiny on the Bounty starring Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins. It might have been appropriate to cast Graham Henry as Captain Bligh with Matt Dawson as Fletcher Christian, but the Lions players and management were conspicuous by their absence. However, Peter O'Toole was on board, although it seemed a little incongruous to have Lawrence of Arabia splicing the main brace.
12th July Decisions, decisions. Finally opt for Doyles fish restaurant on the Rocks which affords an excellent view of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Australia is not just overrun with Lions supporters but former internationals. You can't move for them. Our lunch table is soon joined by four ex-Lions – Mike Roberts, John Taylor, Ray MacLoughlin and Gavin Hastings. Roberts has brought 1,400 supporters over through his company Sport Aboard while Gullivers, another sports tour specialist, has three times that number. When they first ventured into the business they had one bus each for Lions' tours.
There is serious money being made out of this tour and few are making it faster than David Campese. Apart from making a career out of a dropped pass – his gaffe in the third Test here in 1989 enabled the Lions to win the decider 19-18 – he has a sports shop in Sydney. A couple of days ago he ordered 900 replica Lions jerseys and sold the lot, more than £50 a time, within 24 hours.
13th July The sardonic Graham Henry (once a headmaster, always a headmaster), maintains that Austin Healey is fit although the word on the street – as we can't attend training sessions the street is our source of information – is that the Lip is struggling with a back injury. Henry, who describes the the final Test as "quite monumental'', is asked if he's getting enough sleep. "I slept with my wife last night,'' the New Zealander replied, "and it was very pleasant.''Reuse content