We left Canberra after work on Friday afternoon, bound for Wagga. We made pretty good time and beat the Google estimation of when we would arrive. We stayed with TreesMenz, an old workmate of mine. Conveniently enough, she had two single beds spare in her house. When we arrived, the doors were wide open, but nobody was home. Turns out her mum lives a couple of doors down, and it's Wagga so no worries about robbers. Anyhow, we decided we would get a pub meal for our dinner. The first place we stopped by, the Union, it seemed pretty expensive, but not that impressive, so we decided to continue the tour of the town. We came across a big outdoor concert, and a man told us to hurry along the bridge as there would be fireworks in 90 seconds.
The man must have been wrong, because we were at the table in Romanos pub, ready to be served our meal when the fireworks had finally kicked off. Funnily enough, there were fireworks on when we last went to a footy match, the trial in Bega.
We had our meals which were all pretty good, I had a big steak, which was probably a bit too big, but is there really such a thing? We weren't really keen for a big night out on the town, so we went back and watch the comedy channel, then went to bed.
Plenty more driving the next day, with no hills to be seen. Flat as a tack the whole way, bound for Hay. I had driven the journey yesterday, so it was my turn to sit back and relax. We listened to the local ABC, and they had a match preview for the game we were heading to. Matt Geyer was on as a guest from their live broadcast from Hay, he was saying how it would be good if there was a more formal system of these matches in the bush, but it's something the CRL is simply not interested in.
After the early sports section, the Weekend Woodies took over, I wasn't really interested in old ladies and their creaky floorboards, so I put on the appropriately titled "Small Town Stories" from A Death In The Family.
The fruit fly exclusion zone requested we drop our fruit in the rubbish or receive a heavy fine. Though I thought there would probably be no inspectors out on the weekend, I didn't want a heavy fine, nor did I want to be single handedly responsible for destroying the Riverina. After eating a couple of bananas, we decided to simply hide the fruit in the bushes, and collect it on our return journey.
We stopped to meander in Narranderra for our morning tea break. There were signs of wealth that you don't usually see in the country. Even the cricket ground had a very shiny fence, reminiscent of North Sydney Oval. I stopped in at the skatepark for a quick roll around, I've got to say it's not one of the highlights of the various skateparks I've been to. Right up there with the worst to be honest.
The Gaslight Anthem carried us on our way and Lostprophets brought us into the town of Hay itself. We had a lunch at a local cafe, The Long Paddock. It was a bit disappointing and a bit too expensive. We located the field, and I stopped by another skatepark. A kid riding some sort of 3 wheel tricycle contraption told I was "heaps good ay", and to be honest, even though he was wrong, I was stoked.
We checked into our cabin at the Hay Caravan Park. It was a pretty small area, I'm not sure how many they claimed it could fit, but if you filled it to the maximum, you would want some pretty small children filling the triple bunks.
I played some Footbag and was playing quite well actually, there was a small brick area just outside our door. Some fellow Raiders fanatics came by, Kenrick, better known as KW, that bloke on the radio who sometimes tells how the fans are feeling about each week's match. He said something about being pretty good with the old Hacky Sack. Instead of being a jerk and saying it's Footbag mate, I just muttered some thanks and talked about the game ahead.
Soon after we were off to the game. It wasn't a long drive into town, and we could park quite close without being in an area that looked like it would be havoc after the game. We walked past the old Hay skatepark on the way in, which was definitely one to miss, simply a couple of quarterpipes on an old concrete block. Excitement plus. To one side of that Laurie Daley was sitting down with Brad Clyde and a bunch of TV cameras, I guess it was a small segment for Fox.
We arrived at the match and a couple of the youth academies were playing. The scores on the scoreboard didn't seem to match up with the scores the announcer was giving, but when we arrived, the score was 18-6. By the end of the match, the team we thought was Hay- though neither team was actually a Hay team, were up 24-18, but the other side scored a late try. The kicker from the corner went wide and it was game over, 24-22.
Not long after the main game was about to kick off. I wondered who the guy in the middle with the big gut was, and was surprised to see it was Big Mal, rather than a muscle man, he now sports a huge belly. Though nowhere near the size of front row forward Mark Tookey. As the ABC commentators said, the team came out in "a variety of shapes and sizes".
The team that came out was something along the lines of:
On the bench they had a number of young players from the Hay side with Ricky Stuart pulling out a couple of weeks ago and Jason Croker a late withdrawal.
Things were not looking good for the old blokes early on, with one of the Magpies, carrying the name of his town, Harley Hay, capitalised on a dropped ball from Laurie Daley and found winger Ryan Gash backing up for the first points of the match. 4-0 down it was time for the all star lineup to get serious. It was a long, long time before the Hay Magpies crossed the line.
Kenny Nagas was the star of the first half, scoring the first two tries. The first involved some crafty footwork, leaving a number of the Magpie players bamboozled, while the second try he basically pulled out of his arse. The ball had bounced after a short break from Simon Woolford and he picked it up at almost full pace, reaching out behind him and knocking over a few defenders to score. This was vintage stuff, and the whole reason we had come out to the wild, wild west.
With so many of the big name players from the early nineties Raiders glory days, it was no surprise to see a similar style employed, something between that style and that of the Harlem Globetrotters being played. It was no match for the farmers and whoever else lives out in Hay, who were led by Gareth Price, a former Welsh international, who I'm not entirely sure what he's doing in Hay, but he has signed on as Captain/Coach for the season.
The points kept flowing in, with David Furner getting something to show the boys back at Raiders training, this is how you score a try mate. He bopped off a few would be defenders and charged over the line.
The game was played in four quarters, each one of varying length, somewhere between 15-20 mins. It was a hot day, so I'm sure the old blokes were happy to take a rest. Each time between quarters, half the crowd would swarm across the field and they would have to wait until they meandered back off to the other side before play resumed.
After the third quarter, the ABC team said coach Arthur Beetson gave Laurie Daley the worst pass award for the day, for a long ball, a few metres forward, that landed a little ahead of Marcus Bai on the ground, which he knocked on.
The second half had plenty more tries, Andrew McFadden chipped through and then soccered the ball again to find support, while Simon Woolford ran further than he ever did in his NRL career to score a 60m try. He took no further part in the game after that.
As the clock ticked down, you saw a few players looking for a reprieve, but there was no way the players on the bench were going to be getting back up from their chairs, so whoever was still on, stayed on. With a few minutes left, the Magpies were attacking the line, after a dropped all at the back. After a suspicious amount of tackles in the count, the ball was placed somewhere near the line (probably in front of it), but with no video ref, Bill Harrigan pointed to the spot. The scores remained unchanged, the All Star lineup victorious by 50 points to 8.
For a 3-2-1 I would give
3- K Nagas
2- D Furner
1- A McFadden
After the game we headed back to the Caravan Park and had a swim in the pool. It was still fairly hot at about 6pm, so it was a good way to spend the rest of the day. We headed to the South Hay Pub just down the road and ate a pretty mean mixed grill. We had seen a truck outside and thought it was a trucker getting a good feed, but when the covers came off, there was a band playing inside.
The old tavern looked like it would be a fairly wild place that night, and after Jonathan won $270 on the pokies, after an outlay of $1, we hit the road. We were back in the cabin and had the cricket on with Australia vs Sri Lanka.
I watched for a while, then continued with F Scott Fitzgerald's "The Diamond as Big as The Ritz and Other Stories". I had gone to bed with three wickets down, and I wouldn't have missed much more action as heavy rain stopped proceedings.
We were up reasonably early to kick off the long drive home. We got our breakfast goods from the local Foodworks, which was advertised on the radio station, just after they played "Bang On" from the Propellerheads.
I drove the first leg, across the flat and then we switched over at Narranderra, before collecting our fruit, good as new, where we had left it the day before. We powered through to Gundagai where we stopped at a Chinese restaraunt, probably the only place open in town. They had some $10.50 lunch specials...there was not really any surprise that we were the only ones there, so the meals came in no time.
From there I was back in the drivers seat, and it was not all that long until we were back in the "big smoke" (in comparison to where we had been) of Canberra.
Some of those players we went to see, they've still got it, while others are a long, long way off being in their prime. When you think it's almost 20 years since some of them retired, it's pretty impressive they can still get out and play a match every now and then.
It was a lot of fun going to the match and seeing all the old heroes, it was also good to explore somewhere I had never been before.