• Switch Edition
ESPN SCRUM / Tom's Tour Diary / News
British & Irish Lions
Newcastle embrace the travelling tourists
Tom Hamilton in Sydney
June 12, 2013
The Lions supporters enjoy the game in Newcastle © PA Photos

So far on the 2013 British & Irish Lions tour, there has been talk of 'spy-gate', biting and broken bones. It was refreshing to see the Lions on the front page of the Newcastle Herald on Wednesday morning for all the right reasons.

'Roar Power' was how the newspaper described the Lions' 64-0 demolition of the Combined Country. But their presence in the city should leave a legacy which union can build on in the coming years. The city is dominated by league with the Newcastle Knights the local favourites. But for one night only, all the talk resounded around the Lions.

They made their pilgrimage to the grave of Robert Seddon, the original Lions captain who drowned in the Hunter River, earlier that day and they were greeted by Maitland Rugby Football Club. They have tended Seddon's grave over the past 80 years and have formed a unique bond with the tourists as a result. It was a sombre ceremony by Seddon's final resting place, with Sam Warburton and Manu Tuilagi in attendance, but it also illustrated the warmth with which the Lions are held.

It is easy to get bogged down in talk of brands, technology, analysis and sponsorship when talking about the men in red but the Test team that takes to the field against the Wallabies will still just be 15 blokes in a red jersey playing their heart out. And for Newcastle, that is what the public came to see - superstars and not the circus that surrounds the team.

The front page of the Newcastle Herald, Newcastle, June 12, 2013
The Newcastle Herald's front page © ESPNscrum

The Lions do their bit when they travel around Australia. Mako Vunipola and Tom Youngs visited Newcastle's Wanderers rugby union club prior to the match while Andy Irvine met Olive Adams and Dane Walton, the niece and great great nephew of Lions legend Sammy Walker who played on the 1938 tour. The food left over from their stay in Newcastle was handed to OzHarvest who will now distribute it to local charities in the area.

On one hand it is possible to look at this cynically saying they are just PR exercises but these sorts of events will still be remembered by the players in years to come. Their post-match celebrations and the touring experience will also be highlights but the 2009 crop of Lions still speak about their trips to Soweto four years on. You can imagine that standing next to Seddon's grave would have had a profound effect on Warburton. The Lions leave a legacy wherever they go.

Newcastle understood that and while the tourists passed under the radar in Perth, they are slowly but surely making their mark on Australia.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

Tom Hamilton was brought up near the stands of the Recreation Ground and joined ESPN in 2011. He is now Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.
Follow him on Twitter @tomESPNscrum