“Goog, I’m gone, I’m going to pass out”.
It’s a nano-second into a planned submerge into a crocodile tank and I hear those eight words coming out of one of the best rugby players to lace a boot for the Wallabies.
Stephen Larkham and I are two days into participating in the #GoldBlooded Tour of Australia and we find ourselves hovering above a small body of water with an exceptionally large body of crocodile in it. I’m pretty sure it’s looking at me too.
As we are lowered into the tank encased in a perspex cylinder that looks like it was built in the 1950’s, Bernie decides that after four weeks of planning and a multitude of correspondence between organising parties and participants, he will let me know that he is claustrophobic.
I remind him that there is over 500 kilos of human killing machine about 25 cm from our noses and that getting out was not a great idea.
I tell him to focus on something else, so channelling Uri Geller-esque powers, Bernie decides to start humming the national anthem to take his mind off things.
I start to consider that a slight humming vibration in the tank may in fact draw the killing machine’s attention and start to position myself behind Bernie.
Fifteen minutes later we are relieved to be lifted out of the tank and released from our perspex platter, ensuring that I will not be caught in a confined space again with Bernie without a decent music soundtrack at hand.
The week has been filled with notable activities and exciting times for two ageing rugby players who were fortunate enough to represent their country and are now given the opportunity to participate in a nation wide #GoldBlooded tour that is all about letting communities know that we are all part of the #GoldBlooded family and bound by a common golden thread.
The cauldron of professional sport offers little opportunity to distract yourself from striving for athletic excellence and it is post career that past players find the transition out of that heady mix of analysis and pressure daunting and a little directionless.
Initiatives like the #Goldblooded tour allow for Classic Wallabies to re-enter the rugby branded arena with an entirely different mindset and desirable outcomes, putting smiles on faces and letting Australian communities know that we are as important as each other once we embark on a membership in the rugby family.
The week in the Northern Territory took us across over 1500km, a trip to Jabiru Area School, several Darwin community schools and down to Alice Springs and Uluru.
Alice Springs gave us the chance to meet some inpatients at Alice Springs Hospital and share some time with Calvaron, a young man whom we visited in the Hospital.
We filled the room with some rugby energy and the World Cup, he reached out and touched the Cup and smiled. Cue the tears when the hospital staff told us that he hadn’t smiled in nine months since his admission.
Time spent with the inmates at Alice Springs Correctional facility reminded us just how fortunate we are to be able to throw a rugby ball around and forget your troubles for a small moment in time.
We had no right to expect that we would be welcomed so warmly and with so much gratitude.
A mixture of misfortune and some poor life choices were no measure for a game of scratch touch and the joy that sport can bring onto the horizon.
This week the #GoldBlooded tour will head down through South Australia and will continue across the country as over 30 different Classic Wallabies stick their hands out and embrace the Australian Rugby Family.
For a small moment in time we will tell our rugby stories and listen to some, for the rest of time we will be linked by our common golden thread.