British & Irish Lions
Panic on the streets of Sydney
Tom Hamilton in Sydney
June 16, 2013
Sonny Bill Williams in his league colours © Getty Images
It was a rare opportunity, a night off in Sydney. The shock waves of Shane Williams' call-up to the Lions had been and gone, pieces had been filed. With Sydney our oyster, myself and five others in the press-pack decided to go and take in the local NRL game - it was the Sydney Roosters against the New Zealand Warriors.
At the epicentre of the action was Sonny Bill Williams. Wearing 12 for the home side, but playing largely in their second-row, this game seemed easy for the former All Black. Moments of brilliance from him were tapered by direct running and a lack of ingenuity on behalf of the majority of the other players on the field. But the crowd seemed engrossed by the action.
The game took place in the same stadium the Lions played in the previous night. Four of their contingent were seated five metres away from us and they seemed to enjoy the occasion; they applauded the attacking play, sleight of hand and offloads and posed for the odd photograph. Quade Cooper was also in attendance - he has the same agent as SBW - and was flanked by a local journalist complete with Dictaphone when he walked past us prior to the match.
The Roosters lost the game, much to the delight of the supporter in front of us who had a tattoo of the Warriors' emblem on her back - she enjoyed parading this - but it was an entertaining spectacle. So far, so good.
Some refreshments followed in Sydney and the opportunity of an early night was far more appealing than pursuing a tour of the city's nightlife. A cab was hailed and goodbyes were made.
Then, drama - yes readers, 'Drama Part Two' following my escapes in Hong Kong. Roughly 45 seconds into my, admittedly, embarrassingly short drive up to my hotel in the Rocks, the taxi was broadsided by a black Vauxhall Astra, complete with P plate. I checked my glasses, a priority when you are as short-sighted as me, and while they were intact, the taxi's wing mirror had seen better days. It hung limply by the side of the car.
The taxi driver, understandably, took umbrage to this. But the driver of the Astra failed to stop and do the honourable thing of exchanging details.
The Vauxhall simply sped off. Tax, as I will now refer to my driver as, did not like this. Oh no. Off we chased and he eventually cornered them into a parking bay. A sharp exchange of words was made but then the offending car took flight once again.
Tax, at this point absolutely fuming, told me to buckle in. You can keep your Bullitt and French Connection car chases, this was the real thing. Eventually after about fifteen seconds of relentless horn blaring and undertaking, the Astra, sensibly, decided to pull in - at this point I had visions of us ending up in Canberra in a four-hour chase, but thankfully it was not to be.
Details were swapped and Tax was happy enough to drive me back to my hotel. "I'm sorry friend, I'm a bus driver and I know these streets," was his departing comment to me. I wasn't going to question him.
I saw two different sides of Sydney that night- the rugby league crowd and the world of a taxi driver with a 'Gran Turismo' mentality. And all this on the day Shane Williams was called up by the Lions. Now we're touring.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.