CLIFFE Hall Club snooker member Andrew Eccles and two pals from Wakefield, Johnny and James Moses, have just returned from an experience of a lifetime in Australia and South Korea.
Former Rastrick CC junior and New Road (Badger Hill CC) player Andrew, 53, a season ticket holder for both Huddersfield Town and Huddersfield Giants, was originally looking to make the trip for the final Ashes cricket Test with Ian Hesling, who works at Naylor Myers in Brighouse, but he could not get time off work.
Having got permission of his wife Kath, who he took to Australia last February, and leaving her in the company of daughters Lucy and Vicky, Andy set off on December 30 to enjoy the cricket and the delights of Australia.
“What a great five days of cricket at the SCG and a superb result to finish the Ashes series 3-1 winners,” he said
“We went to every day’s play and because the Aussies were losing so badly, they didn’t turn up in force, so we manged to get tickets for less than face value on all the days despite the best efforts of the ‘large team’ of ticket touts who all spoke with scouse accents, would you believe. How do they manage it?
“I think they probably lost money outside the SCG though.
“We stayed at the Hyde Park Hotel, but The Barmy Army HQ was at the Paragon Hotel in Circular Quay, Sydney, and there were after-match parties each night with a ‘biggie’ after the final day.
“It has been great fun and I would advise any cricket lover to start saving for the next Ashes series down under in 2014/15 as everyone I have spoken to agrees that this is one of the must do things in a person’s life.
“I must admit though that I got a little fed up with listening to the same songs over and over again each day and night.
“Poor Aussie player Mitchell Johnson took the brunt of most of the mickey-taking.
“After the final day’s play we arrived at the Paragon and I had a Channel 7 news reporter sticking a microphone in my face as I had succombed to a Barmy Army tee shirt.
“A short while after Channel 9 arrived and there was a naughty rendition of Waltzing Matilda for them.
“Sydney is a lovely city, as I found out when visiting last year with Kath. Then, we stayed at an apartment owned by Chris Ryan, a Manly Sea Eagles and Australian International rugby league player in the 70s.
“He took Kath and I to the Sea Eagles ground where the clubhouse also sports a casino and horse racing betting office.
“That makes over $2million per year for the club. No wonder they can pay wages so much better than us in this country.
“With my two mates we spent time at Manly and Bondi Beaches along with the other usual sights such as the bridge, opera house and Darling Harbour.
“After the Test finished, we heedad up to Brisbane, Queensland, for a few days on the Gold Coast in the sun. What a few days and no sun.
“It was utter devastation with roads and railway lines collapsed, many people dead and many more missing.
“We wanted to go to Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo - the crocodile hunter who was killed by a sting ray - where they had many crocodiles, for which he was famous.
“The place was flooded and they were worried the crocs were going to escape in the flood waters so the park was closed.
“We were turned around before we got there as the road had disappeared that took us north.
“Houses had been uprooted and floated down the street with people sat on the roof calling for assistance. Cars had been washed away along with other articles in front of our very eyes.
“There is a fear from an ecological point of view that all the silt and rubbish that has been swept down the rivers will end up in the sea and kill up to 90 per cent of the coral reef and all the marine life that lives in the reef.
“It could take 20 years for it to grow back again.
“Divers went down to the coral and visibility was down to one metre. Among the coral was a fridge, a car and a dead cow.
“Fresh water fish swept down to the sea were all on the beach washed up dead as the salt water had killed them.
“We managed to get to Gold Coast airport for a flight back to Sydney before flying to Seoul, South Korea.
“That was a place and a half with all the money America has pumped in and Korean Airlines put us in a five-star hotel and we were waited upon hand and foot.
“A schoolteacher friend of the Moses brothers, who works there, took us to Icheon City and to places the ordinary tourist wouldn’t go and it opened our eyes.
“Oh yes, and we managed to watch Town beat Sheffield Wednesday on January 3 live on Fox Sports, 11.30pm kick-off in the Paragon Hotel, with a group of lads from Broad Oak Cricket Club in Huddersfield.
“Finally, in all the excitement I hadn’t realised that in Melbourne over the past weekend there was the first One Day game and then the Australian Tennis Open and being a regular at Wimbledon, I would have loved to have stayed for that.”