It started with a phone call from the Canberra Raiders’ Fan Engagement office.
“The final home game of the season is Members’ Appreciation Day, and we’ve selected 40 members who have attended every home game this season to form a guard of honour as the team runs out onto the pitch. Would you like to be one of them?”
Excited match-day mascots wait for the Canberra Raiders to take to the pitch. The cheerleaders proved distracting to one little fan.
I would, but I hesitated, because I knew someone who’d like to do it even more.
“Absolutely,” I said, “but would it be possible for my son to do it instead?”
The Australian Institute of Sport, home to the country’s elite athlete training programme, but also a fascinating afternoon out.
Tucked away in one of Canberra’s northern suburbs is a university-like campus which serves as a training centre for Australia’s prospective Olympic athletes. Such a purpose suggests a secret camp with high security fencing but, in fact, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) offers daily public tours of its facilities, where you can see how Australia prepares its future champions… and you don’t even have to be an Aussie to go along.
The Canberra 5k was our first race in Australia but it won’t be our last.
This post is going to make me sound all athletic, and really, I’m not. But since we moved to Canberra, I’m a darned sight more athletic than at any point since childhood.
Last weekend, Canberra hosted the Australian Running Festival. A two-day series of races ranging from a 5km run to a 50km ‘ultra-marathon’ (as if a marathon wasn’t enough of a challenge).
Back in December, fresh off the plane, a 5km run through the heart of the city’s parliamentary triangle seemed like a fun thing to sign up for, so we did – me, mini-CBRbound (aged 8) and maxi-CBRbound (aged 11). Continue reading
The boys definitely participate in sports a lot more in Canberra.
Regular readers will know that my two sons, mini-CBRbound (8) and maxi-CBRbound (11) were big factors in our decision to move to Canberra.
There were all sorts of reasons why we thought Australia would be good for them, but a big one was the prospect of a more outdoor and active life, made possible by the climate and the Aussie obsession with sports.
The West Indies take on Zimbabwe at Manuka Oval in Canberra.
For those old enough to recall it, there’s a fabulous episode of the original 1960’s Star Trek series (and a concept revisited many times by its successor shows) called ‘Mirror, Mirror’.
It imagines a world where, but for a turn of fate here, a different decision there, the universe might be a very different place. In ‘Mirror, Mirror’, the end result is an aggressive Vulcan race and a Federation that is more warrior than explorer. It’s kind of ‘Sliding Doors’ for sci-fi geeks.
Anyone who also has kids will know what I mean when I say that sometimes it’s hard to find the time to step back and take stock of life when there’s always just one more errand to run, or one more call for help to respond to.
But today, while driving along with mini- and maxi-CBRbounds in the back of the car, maxi confided in me that he thought our first summer in Canberra had been the best of his (admittedly still short) life.
Supporting a sports team is a lifelong commitment, one that defies logic, rises above setbacks and, once established, pulses deep in the veins. But what does that mean for a new migrant, thousands of miles from his homeland, in need of a regular fix of sporting action.
It’s a question that has nagged at me for years, ever since I gave up my Liverpool season ticket when my family moved to Denmark. But at least Denmark was close enough for the occasional pligrimage to see the boys in red play. Australia, well, that’s another matter entirely.
The famous Shankly Gates at Liverpool’s Anfield stadium.
Canberra Stadium: time for a replacement?
I love a bit of football. Aside from my lifelong devotion to Liverpool FC, the highlight of which was a seven-year spell as a season ticket holder at Anfield, I’ve always gone along to support my local team wherever I’ve lived, and have been known to pause to watch the odd interesting park game for more than a minute or two.
Imagine then, my disappointment at learning that Canberra is one of the few Australian cities not to have a team in the country’s national league, the Hyundai A-League. Imagine then, also, my delight at learning that the AFC Asian Cup – one of the world’s biggest tournaments outside of the FIFA World Cup – was being held in Australia this year and that Canberra had been named as one of its host cities.
The CBRbound clan likes a bit of sport – we’ve trekked across Europe to see the World Equestrian Games, had season tickets for our favourite football teams, seen the royals play polo, and even been to Wimbledon on men’s semi-finals day, to say nothing of all the sporting activities that the kids actually participated in. But nothing quite prepared us for the feast of sporting activity that is on offer in and around Canberra this southern summer.
When I was growing up in England, cricket had a much greater presence in the consciousness of the general public. As I recall, football and cricket were held in relatively equal thrall and were largely confined to their seasons of summer and winter, only overlapping for a few weeks at either end. Indeed, some players even played both games – Ian Botham included.
Since then, the behemoth that is football has sucked up nearly all the media attention in England such that, outside of the Ashes and the world cup, cricket has become very much the poor relation in the nation’s sporting line-up.