Crio’s Question : Unexpected Joys?

There are package tours to all the great sporting events – The Masters, Wimbledon, The Bullring Test….

I’m envious of those who go and certain they return with lifelong memories.

But part of the great charm of John Green’s wonderful travelogue has been its “discovery” aspect – virtually stumbling across gems of magical moments. In “The Day I set out for Ipswich” ( he sets out for an FA Cup tie in Suffolk but ends up at Blackpool – a lucky “slip up”, as it ‘appens.

Sometimes the circumstantial flukes become the best.

The tennis can provide such occasions.

I remember being on my way out of (probably then) Flinders Park late afternoon in Jan 1991 and seeing some spare seats on a court hosting Boris Becker. As he lead 2-nil (7-6, 7-6), most pundits assumed the match to be in its “sunset”. I grabbed a spot to watch the final phases. Somehow, though, the momentum shifted, “Boom-Boom” became enraged and Omar Camporese clawed back, winning the next 2 sets 6-0, 6-4. Now the joint was heaving and I was running late. Then ensued an incredible finale….as the match passed its 5 hrs mark I could see Steffi Graf crouched courtside willing on her compatriot as the crowd gasped and the matched lurched. Becker won 14-12. I’d fluked a classic.

Indirectly, tennis was also responsible for another such opportune “lucked in”. I’d dropped by an Ale House in West London for a cricket score only to have the bar staff insist on leaving the TV fixed to women’s doubles at Wimbledon. Furious, I walked down to St John’s Wood and was rewarded by probably the best innings I’ve ever witnessed –  C. G. Greenidge’s breathtaking 214no to smash the Poms at the home of cricket.

“Seize The Day” works as a good motto for sports fans, for the best memories are sometimes discovered unexpectedly.


  1. I judge great sporting moments by the ‘hairs on the back of the neck’ test. I was touring rural France with MsPB1 in 1985 and got waved to the side of the road by gendarmes in the Loire Valley. Turned out we had stumbled into the route of the Bordeaux-Paris cycle race (one of the key lead ups to the Tour de France). We had no chairs or rugs or food, but the locals made us welcome and explained what they were waiting for (mostly sign language).
    I knew a little of Russel Mockridge, Phil Anderson, Oppy and the history of Australian involvement in European road racing. But mixing with the locals; peering down the road for ages hoping to glimpse a breakaway; then the peloton whizzing by with all the riders impossibly cheek by jowl; and then the entourage of support cars with spare bikes on the roof and riders hanging off the door getting team instructions (no team radio back then).
    The anticipation and then the experience was all electric, and totally unplanned.
    Great call Crio.

  2. Walked into the Adelaide Oval c1981 for what was either a semi or prelim Adelaide Uni v Teachers. Could not believe the skills, the open footy, and the penchant to fly for the speccie. I was visiting from Brisbane where SQAFA was a turgid comp for biff-artists of minimal grace and skill. [The standard of the Brisbane comp has been elevated signiifcantly over the last 30 years – thankfully!]

  3. Also, my Union College compadres will rmemeber this, but one night Union College played Kings at basketball. Union had a Brisbane Bullet: Terry Matheson. Kings had a Brisbane Bullet: Stephen Driver. They went head to head in what I would put in my top 10 live sporting events.

    I was not a basketballer then – in fact, I never really was, even though I played a lot of seasons for The Harlem Pig-trotters and Geelong (do you remember that Bill Ellis?) However I fell into a basketball crowd and used to go to watch the reserve and A grade (featuring Bill Ellis) on a Wednesday night at the Auchendome in Brisbane. I recall some absolute classic matches in both women’s and men’s – featuring players who were brilliant: Dr Who, Eric the African-American star? Shane Edwards. Scintillating stuff.

  4. matt watson says

    I went to Melbourne in 2002 for the grand final. Unfortunately I didn’t have a ticket. I just expected one to land in my hand.
    By Friday night I still had no ticket, so I did the sensible thing and built a massive hangover.
    The next morning, destroyed by hangover, a mate woke me at 9.30am.
    ‘Wato, get up, I’ve got you a ticket,’ he said.
    Exit hangover. The ticket cost $220, a bargain and certainly not the most I’ve ever paid. The machinations of procurement will remain unsaid to protect the guilty, but it involved MCC members and a former VFL goal umpire.
    I sat in the MCC, in the rain and watched Brisbane win back to back grand finals.
    Shame Collingwood lost…

  5. Peter Flynn says


    That’s a fair walk from West London to NW8.

    You must have been furious.


  6. Ben Footner says

    I remember catching one day of the Ashes test match in Adelaide in 2003, just for something to do. It was a rather bleak day, cool and overcast. A mate and I took a seat right up the back of the old western stand, just down from the members.

    England were making slow work of things, and between the weather and the old bloke having a sook in front of us about the volume of our little radio tuned to the ABC coverage, the day was shaping up to be a fizzer.

    Enter Glen McGrath and arguably one of the greatest catches ever taken, right in front of us, one handed and at full stretch on the boundary. Can still picture it clear as day.

  7. Actually Flynnie, it was W2 to Lords…about 2km (couple of cans from the off licence)

  8. Ben Footner says

    Conversely, great sporting moments you’ve missed unexpectedly……

    Adelaide Ashes test 2006. My brother scored tickets for all 3 Footner lads for the first 4 days of the most hyped Ashes series in my lifetime. Brilliant. I attended all four day, in which both teams batted untroubled on an Adelaide pitch that resembled King William Road. I remember nothing of note in any of those days of play.

    With the test match headed for the inevitable draw, I was back in the office for the 5th day. Hmmmmm.

  9. Peter Flynn says


    A Baywater-ish offie hitting Edgeware Rd at some stage.

  10. Praed St for first Heine can

  11. School excursion to tennis at Perth Entertainment Centre probably 1974-75. The main match finished early, so an impromptu doubles was played with Bjorn Borg and Vitas Gerulaitis on opposing sides (can’t remember the others). What ensued was a light hearted and incredibly skilfull match with Vitas and Bjorg hitting returns at the net at the speed of table tennis players, trick shots behind the back, using the wrong end of the racquet and even headers.

  12. MQ We had school excursions to the butter factory, and the top of Gowrie Mountain (a sad remnant of an ancient volcano about the shape of a Morwell chimney stack).

  13. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    MQ – Our school excursions were generally a walk up Philip Highway to the Holden’s factory. Not sure whether this was meant to inspire us or warn us, but at least you could be assured of seeing most of the ‘Dogs backline working away with a spot-welder or a rubber mallet (the forward line were all school teachers)

  14. JTH you’ve managed to turn a school excursion in to a class war. My family use to live in a hole in the road you know.

  15. Mickey Randall says

    Vegas. Crawled into bed at 8am. Woke after lunch and switched on the tele. Saw the second half of a NFL playoff game in which the Denver Broncos with John Elway at quarterback did what they often did, which is to come from behind and steal the game. I was mesmerized, and although I’d been a long term fan of the sport I didn’t really have a team. Now I did.

  16. Mike Delves says

    It was late June 1965 & I had just been demobbed in Brisbane after 2 years of Nasho. After staying up all night to watch (amazingly!) the Beatles sing “All You Need Is Love” direct from London, I noticed that there was a soccer game on at the Exhibition Ground between Queensland & Manchester United featuring all the greats – Best Charlton Bros, Stiles etc. So I went along – not a big crowd & resulted in a win for the Redlegs 10-0. But what an exhibition!
    I then drove home to Melbourne & on the following sunday & saw them play Victoria at Olympic Park – I think it cost around $2!
    Fancy – twice in one week!

  17. Ah 1991 (Boom Boom v. Camporese)… was that the match where you had the house keys and some poor lass was sitting on the top step of the flat waiting…waiting…waiting? ;)

  18. others might remember the match differently….

  19. …and, Carmel, a good topic for another thread about the unintended consequences for others of some sporting obsessions…

  20. Glen Potter says

    Unexpected Joy.
    A mate and I intentionally went to the 2000 AFL GF (Ess v. Bris – both of us had no allegiance, just wanted to enjoy a neutral GF) with the ‘honest’ intention of buying a standing room ticket after the media alerted the public that about 500 remained. We arrived at 9:30am and we’re politely told that none remained. Crestfallen, we ambled away deliberating where we’d take in the big dance. Confronted by a gorgeous lass presenting drink cards to a Russell St. watering hole, I had a brainwave. I still can’t fathom to this day what led my mind to think through what I was about to do next. Upon receipt of the ‘buy one beer, get one free’ card, I realised our mouth-watering gift was indeed the same size and shape as an MCG pass-out card. I figured we could flip our drink cards over so the blank, white side was facing up. All we needed to do was usher past the MCG red-coat before they had the presence of mind to flip the card over ‘face up’ to discover what would’ve read as a thirsty offering, rather than a legitimate AFL official pass out. The key was the timing. We needed a flurry of patrons seeking re-entry to confuse the red-coat into receiving our illegitimate ticket. Funnily enough, Dame Fortune presented an opportunity that had to be seized upon. Another posse of deceivers were attempting to pull some prank of sorts at the pass-out gate and this was our smokescreen into GF folklore. Thrusting our tickets into the sweaty palm of a perplexed gate attendant who was consumed in agitated discourse with the other band of deceivers, my mate and I high-tailed it through several bays of the lower reaches of the Great Southern Stand, safe in the knowledge we’d entered the stadium with the cheapest tickets in town. We enjoyed the Lions overwhelming victory and sang La Marseilles deep into the night. Oh, and we dropped into the Russell St. watering hole on the way home for a couple of beers as well and had no problems paying for the second one either!

  21. Glenn, was the redcoat still at The Gallery or had he already enjoyed the win/win you had literally handed to him?

  22. Glen Potter says

    I can safely say it wasn’t The Gallery but a haunt further up Russell St. near some cinemas. And, no, we didn’t find our bewildered red-coat. Though we did joke about him turning up to redeem his gift. It would’ve been pretty funny if he had’ve fronted.

  23. Glen Potter says

    Unexpected Joy #2
    Although not as colourful as my earlier offering, this unexpected joy was quite a pleasant surprise.
    A journey to Sydney (from Melbourne) for a boozy weekend with an old mate who took up temporary residence in the Harbour City, turned out to be a bit of a racing bonanza. The weekend was booked well in advance and was intended to be nothing more than a catch-up and a few beers. We hit a bar mid-afternoon on the Friday and enjoyed several beverages and the odd punt. Upon closer inspection of the form-guide, I revealed that evening’s card at Harold Park harness and what was to be the first-up run for Thorate since his 1990 Adelaide Inter-dominion triumph (of which, ironically, I happened to be at Globe Derby that very evening!). What a delight! So off we trotted (sorry for the pun) out to Glebe Paceway where the champ again returned triumphantly, probably at long odds-on. My mate and I were bitten by the racing bug as we declared the following day’s Rosehill card – Golden Slipper day – a must. As proud Victorians we kicked home Rick Hore-Lacy’s Canny Lad in the feature and celebrated accordingly. Definitely an unexpected joy.

  24. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I was roped in to work at the 1990 Interdominion by my grandfather and his brother who were the octagenarian course detectives. I’d never been near a horse in my life, but I had to ensure that the placegetters were returned to the swabbing stall immediately after the race, sometimes doing the leading in myself.

    If the connections knew how little experience I had, I doubt whether they would have been too pleased. It was a different time …

  25. Glen Potter says

    If memory serves me correct, and I’m stubbornly refusing to google search the result, you would’ve handled Weona Chief (2nd) and Westburn Grant (3rd)? How good’s your memory? Trainer Brain Hancock trained the quinella but drove the second placegetter and his young ‘second-string’ stable driver actually drove the winner. It’s amazing the things the brain retains, though I do stand corrected on the third placegetter.

  26. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    By placegetters, I meant 1st, 2nd and 3rd of each heat and the final – I did it on each night of the Carnival, haven’t been that close to a horse since.

    But I don’t remember much of the detail apart from Thorate winning.

  27. Malcolm Ashwood says

    A fellow member of the Knackery stumbled across a media pass super imposed his picture and used it at the Sydney olympics, numerous grand finals basically every where it was 7 years before he was questioned and then only because the colour had changed basically the golden rule of bullshit be upfront and seemingly blasé and you get away with it

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