In June of 1996, the Austin Huns RFC, plus a few other welcomed outsiders, journeyed down under for their 2nd tour in as many years. The trip was saved by the courageous efforts of Joe Weis after the first organizer bailed out on the project. A total of twelve Huns and six others to bring the touring list to a total of 18, with 16 able to participate in the matches. Other members included three Iowans, a Quin, one from Bay Area, and one former Hun and a Ft. Worth player currently residing in Seattle.
The Tour started a few days early for some in LA and a day late for Dave Pelton, who had convinced himself that the flight left on Friday instead of Thursday and had to catch up to everyone else who made the original flight. The first couple of days in Sydney were for getting organized, a bit of sightseeing, beginning work on a permanent alcoholic daze and laying the groundwork for further conquests on our return to Sydney. Our first night consisted of attending the rugby union State of Origin match between New South Wales and Queensland. It was a tight and competitive match that ended up with N.S.W. pulling out a 29-25 victory in the last minutes. Concluded the night with excursions to various pubs and clubs and put in a relatively early night for most at about one that morning. The next morning started slowly with us all recovering from the 14hr flight and nonstop activity of yesterday. At about 11 we went for a quick work session to work out who would be playing where once we got up to Noosa. After a bit more sightseeing we met at the Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel for eats, drink, and to watch the ACT vs. Wales match. ACT (Australian Capital Territory) pulled away from a close half time score of 23-24 to win by a score of 69-30. The Huns also proved themselves able to keep up with the Aussies in beer consumption that night by winning an N.S.W. Blues RL Jumper and three autographed coasters by turning in the most “Toohey’s beer money” we would get each time we would drink a Toohey’s.
Most of the third day was spent traveling to Noosa. On the way we stopped at a huge bar (four stories tall barn structure) which had obviously been profitable enough to support a host of small business’s sprouting up around it. We entertained ourselves with beer and luge on three-wheeled carts where bumps on the asphalt tracks could send you airborne. Our first impression of Noosa was that we had found paradise. The view from our apartments, as well as the apartments they were spectacular. The weather the whole time in Noosa was such that we could comfortably leave the sliding glass doors and windows open throughout our stay. The rest of the day was spent with a quick practice; dinner and watching the State of Origin (Qld. vs. N.S.W.) Rugby League match. The next day was spent at the beach or taking tours or hikes through the various areas around the Noosa area.
That night was our first match versus the Noosa Dolphins Old Boys. The match was with uncontested scrums (later thought to be more to their advantage). The Huns scored first with a spectacular run off a loop by inside center Chris Blanchard (Iowan) on a pass from OC Doug Forte. Noosa came back and scored by controlling the rucks and mauls eventually scoring from 5 meters out. The second Huns score resulted from a great individual effort by SH David Pelton when he kicked to open space behind their defense off a scrum and chased the ball into the try zone first for the score under the posts. The last try was completed off an overload situation created by Chris Blanchard who passed to Jon Buchfinck who completed the score with a 40-meter scamper down the sideline. Noosa scored several other times in the match the same way they did the first time, by controlling the rucks and mauls and scoring from close in. The final score ended up being 24-21 Noosa. After the close loss, the Huns made up for it by dominating the party. Our only loss was on a questionable chugging race where several of the Noosa Old boys decided that it was much easier to spill half the beer on themselves instead of drinking it. Outstanding performances by Joe “Scuba” Weis who, after chugging half of the bottle of Cuervo that we presented them with, fought Max to a draw in the butt clench coin walk and drop into a glass. Jack Bloom upstaged another of the old boys by drinking a beer while in a handstand (his grandmother taught him!) over the old boy who had to have someone hold his legs and pour the beer in his mouth.
The next day was more sightseeing (some of the sights were topless women on the beach). Not all bared themselves, but the ones who did tend to be of the college co-ed age. Many celebrated their last night in Noosa by partying into the wee hours of the morning. We returned to Brisbane the next afternoon.
After arrival in Brisbane and prying ourselves into the matchbook sized rooms; we headed out for our match against the Brisbane Bush Rangers. The night was warm and humid; our host brought along a couple of local players; one being an ex-Wallaby who played wing, to bolster our ranks. Even though we lost this match by a score of 17 to 24; we acquitted ourselves well. This match, unlike the first, had contested scrums and our teams’ rucking and mauling was much improved over the first game. Our first try was scored by the fly half, one of the local players, who faked a pass to the center, drawing his opposite out of position and made several others miss on his way to a score. Our other try was scored by the ex-Wallaby wing who, when coming from the weak side picked up a grub kick into open space and easily outran the rest of their defense. Afterwards we were sure to clean up well due to the fact that the field had been built over a toxic dump of some kind.
After a quick bit of food and drink; we headed off to a club called Mary Street where we got a bit of VIP treatment by being passe through on ahead of others waiting to get in the club. There; much partying was to be had either on the upper level which was like a pool hall; or the downstairs, a dance club. After partying there into the wee hours of the morning, with some leaving earlier on their own conquests, we returned to the hotel to grab a few hours of sleep before starting another day of sightseeing and partying. The next day people split into smaller groups depending on what each wanted to do; some went to race track to try their luck with the ponies, others went to a koala sanctuary, still others toured the city. Later that night, after watching a match between Brisbane Bush Rangers and the University of Queensland, most of the Huns met at a club called the Underground where we received similar VIP treatment. Several other of our intrepid adventurers (Scuba, Brian Bearry two others) ended up taking a 30 mile, a $100 dollar cab ride down to the Gold Coast for their own bit of partying (a comparable bus or train would have cost a total of A$20). Saturday consisted of much of the same with a few exceptions. A few eager members of our group (Jack Bloom, Doug Forte, John DeVenezia and others) played for Overton Park side(s) in a match vs. Logan City. That night we attended the first test match of the Welsh tour at Ballymore. The Wallabies dominated from the beginning and ended the first half with a substantial lead. The Welsh capitalized on several mistakes by the Aussies to cut the lead to two tries about mid way through the second half. The Schweppes Wallabies (that what the announcer kept calling them, amazing what A$10 million can buy you) then pulled away to a 56 to 25 victory. As the final whistle sounded many from the crowd ( 40,000) rushed onto the field through the sparse security to try to get souvenirs or congratulate their team. Afterwards, we stayed at the bars at Ballymore for several hours getting a good buzz going (some were on “the juice”– codeine laced aspirin followed by bourbon or rum and cokes) until about 11 when we moved onto the Jubilee Hotel, who was hosting a post- test match party. The place was so crowded that it took about 20 minutes to make your way through the bar. Many of the Huns tried their hand at a mechanical bronco (bull with a saddle). Due to the sparse protection and many objects around, they only ran the bronco back and forth; thus shortening many of the Huns ride by finding what little we had and smashing it into our guts; never to return again (or at least for a few days). For those who could still walk, or the smarter who didn’t ride, moved onto several other clubs and partied into the wee hours of the morning. Ask Frank, Brian Bearry, Ed Benson and Zippy for some of the details of that night. We left Brisbane for Sydney on Sunday afternoon.
Our last four days in Australia were spent in Sydney sightseeing. The dreary weather, in the mid 50’s to low 60’s and constant overcast and rainy, didn’t stop the from having a good time to finish our tour. Our hotel was optimally located in the King’s Cross entertainment district (read “a red-light district”). Most of the time was spent in smaller groups touring various sites in and around Sydney. Some of the sites attended were: Sydney harbor cruise on a 3 -masted schooner, Taronga Park Zoo, Sydney Aquarium, Darling Harbor, Blue Mountains, Sydney tower, Australian Museum, Royal Botanical Gardens, as well as the Opera House to name a few. Some spent time shopping for souvenirs and cheap rugby union jerseys (none were to be found). But everyone spent the nights partying along King’s Cross as well as several clubs we found during our brief stay earlier in the tour. The last night was spent watching the Wales vs. Australia “b” match at Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel. The Aussies pulled away earlier and held on for a 51 to 41 victory. After further partying at the bar, we ended up back at the hotel finishing off the kitty with warm and spicy Bloody Mary’s for everyone. Only one did not come back that night; Dougie almost didn’t make it back (he showed up right as the bus was loading).
The long trip back was punctuated by a 6 hour stay in the Auckland airport terminal. Several got visas and took a quick tour of places such as Eden Park as well as happening upon a side in mid practice. Most spent the last of their money on drinking (what a surprise). Then we flew home.