Bunnies in Britain (Part IV): A Bunny Makes it Big in Liverpool!

Reggie popped out his rabbit hole and has arrived at Langtree Park!

Reggie popped out his rabbit hole and has arrived at Langtree Park!

My afternoon in St. Helens would finally culminate with my entrance into Langtree Park for the World Club Challenge between the St. Helens Saints of the Super League and my visiting South Sydney Rabbitohs.  I was so excited, and yet, I was also so nervous!  I mean, I may have been one of the few fans inside The Glass House pub who was looking so cool and aloof.  I can assure you, however, that I was giddy as a schoolgirl on the inside, but I had a poker-player gameface on the outside with a beer in one of my hands.  As I was getting ready to leave, I ran into a familiar face by the entrance.  Actually, it was two familiar faces.  It was Nigel and Nada, the nice couple that I met back in Liverpool.  Before I go any further or take you to the entrance of Langtree Park, allow me to take you back in time.  To one day before the World Club Challenge…

The day before the game, I decided to spend it touring the city that was made famous by the Beatles.  My day was filled with the sounds of shoppers in Liverpool One, the premier shopping district in the city, the music of the Beatles at the Beatles Experience Museum at the Albert Docks, and the crashing waves of the icy Irish Sea sloshing up against the wrought iron walls of the Merseyside harbor.  What was amazing was that it was the middle of Feburary, and yet somehow, it was slightly warmer here than it was back in New York!  Still, the sun was out and I was in the mood to explore!  I have to say that Liverpool is a really cool city.  It is kinda like a smaller version of London, minus the Underground and fewer museums.  Oh, and with a much larger waterfront and cooler weather.  Getting around was, for the most part, quite convenient.  There were signs posted all throughout the city that pointed to all the well-known attractions like the Beatles Museum, the Tate Gallery, and the Albert Docks.

Anyhoo, on my way back from a long day of walking, touring, and shopping, I stopped into a Boots pharmacy to pick up, what else, Cadbury Creme Eggs!  Why?  Well, because I’m in England, and why else do you go across the pond?!  This isn’t just any chocolate: this is the good stuff!  Also, Easter themed candy always puts me in a good mood!  And also my Rabbitohs jersey makes me feel a little bit like the Easter Bunny.  But I digress.  As I paid for my chocolatey goodness, another customer walked by a said, “Go Rabbitohs!”  Not missing a beat, I responded with “Thanks, mate!  I’m actually from New York.”  And just like every other footy fan before, the man’s eyes looked like they were going to pop out from the surprise.

“Wait, you’re an American?  You’re from New York?!  What are you doing here?!” he asked.

“Well, take a look at my cap!  I certainly didn’t just come because I love the Beatles and Cadbury stuff.  I’m here for the World Club Challenge in St. Helens.” I announced, trying to not pepper my response with any more arrogance.

“I just assumed you were an Australian with your Rabbitohs cap and jersey.  You look so well put together.  I didn’t even think any Americans would here, let alone for the Saints game.” he said, still in a state of shock.  He told me his name was Nigel.  I also thought he was an Aussie because he was wearing a North Sydney Bears cap.  For those who are unaware, they used to be a professional NRL team in Australia, until 1992 when they became a lower-grade team, or in American terminology, a minor-league team.  To Rabbitohs fans, they are our lower-grade team that we sometimes send some of our players to whenever they need to better hone their skills.  The team, however, also has a devoted fan base who wants to see the franchise reinstated to professional grade status.

A Brit, A Bunny, and a Bear!

A Brit, A Bunny, and a Bear!

Nigel introduced me to his lovely wife, Nada.  She too was surprised to see an American footy fan in Merseyside.  It turned out that in spite of his Bears knit-cap, Nigel was in no way a Rabbitohs fan.  He was a big supporter of the St. Helens Saints.  It didn’t take him long for him to start busting my chops over how he wanted to see his team give the Rabbitohs a beat down come game day at Langtree Park.  Nonetheless, you might say he and I hit off quite nicely!  As if being a footy fan wasn’t enough, he then told me that he worked for the Daily Mirror UK in Liverpool and he wanted to do a piece on me for an upcoming article about the World Club Challenge.  I couldn’t believe it!  Less than six months ago, the Rabbitohs gave me 15 minutes of fame when I got to do freelance work for them during my recent trip to Sydney, which resulted in me being on their website, twice!  And now, on the other side of the globe, a man from one of England most read newspapers was going to feature me in a piece about one of the biggest rugby league tournaments in the world!  It certainly does pay to be an American Rabbitohs fan!  Nigel, Nada, and I began taking selfies in and out of the pharmacy.  A great moment came when Nigel was about to snap a photo of me and I pulled out a copy of Watership Down out of a shopping bag.  This made Nigel and Nada laugh for two reasons: 1) It seemed just uncanny that a fan of the Rabbitohs would be carrying one of the most iconic novels ever written that deals exclusively with rabbits, at least in a symbolic way.  2) He asked if I had seen the 1978 film adaptation of the titular novel.  Not only did I say yes, but I also said that I had watched the 2000 animated TV series from the BBC.  No doubt, El-Hrairah and Bigwig would be avid supporters of South Sydney!

What every Bunnies fan loves to read, besides RLW!

What every Bunnies fan loves to read, besides RLW!

Just before parting ways, we exchanged email addresses and our Twitter handles.  In spite of him being an avid Saints fan (believe me, he kept saying to me that he was counting on the Rabbitohs to lose and kept joshing me over how much better the Saints are) he was, in my red and green eyes, the first friend I made in Liverpool, with all due respect to those barflies I met previously.  And the fact that he was from a major newspaper and he wanted to tell others about this rare breed of footy fan from Manhattan?!  I just couldn’t help but wish that the Rabbitohs had been there to see it happen.  Reggie, that one’s for you, mate!

AND NOW, WE RETURN TO THE GLASS HOUSE IN ST. HELENS, EN ROUTE TO LANGTREE PARK…

Nigel, Nada, and I were getting ready to leave The Glass House, as we witnessed many red and green fans slowly making their exodus from the pub to the stadium.  One reason I was nervous was because I had no idea where the stadium was.  Being it my first time to this quaint part of England in a region where mass transit wasn’t as common as say, London, I was still trying to get my bearings.  I felt safe in numbers going with Nigel and Nada, along with the hordes of fans.  Then, like a well-dressed pied piper, Nigel led the way to Langtree.  The telltale sign that we were closing in on our target was crossing the Steve Prescott Bridge, a large pedestrian bridge with a pair of bent arches on both sides that lit up at night.  Once on the other side, two sights greeted us: one was the biggest Tesco supermarket that I had ever seen!  The other, was Langtree Park!  I could feel the electricity in the air!

My new Liverpudlian chap, Nigel

My new Liverpudlian chap, Nigel

Langtree Park is a rugby league stadium that has a capacity of over 18,000.  It is the home ground of St Helens RLFC (rugby league football club).  The first rugby league match to be played at the stadium was between St. Helens and Widnes on January 20th, 2012.  St. Helens won the opening game by 42-24 and they moved in ready for the 2012 Super League season; the stadium is practically new.  I was expecting a stadium that had been around since the last time England had a king or one that still had the pungent aroma of stale beer.  Perhaps a British version of Wrigley Field.  The stadium has two main standing stands and two seated stands.  The East Stand and the two most easterly blocks of the North Stand are allocated to the away supporters, the North and South Stands are all seated and the West Stand is entirely standing.  In total, there are 10,150 seats.  Total standing room is 7,695.  Total disabled seats are 135.

Langtree Park

Langtree Park

Outside the red and white marquee (with the home team colors, I felt like I was at a St. George Illawarra Dragons game in Wollongong), the reality of being at a footy match in England had finally caught up with me; the surrealness of it all hit me like, well, a charge by Greg Inglis!  Nigel and Nada were busy catching up with family members.  Apparently, I had made such an impression on him, that he seemed so cool with introducing me to his family members and friends.  But as if being the sole Yank at St. Helens wasn’t cool enough, then I catch out of the corner of my eye a camerawoman wearing a bright, neon yellow jacket.  Apparently, the BBC were there to film not only the game but the fans outside the stadium too.  Nigel flagged them down and immediately started shouting, “This here, he’s from New York!  He’s from Manhattan!  And he goes for South Sydney!  He’s a Yank fan of league and he came here for the Rabbitohs!  How about that, eh?!”  Within a split second, I whipped out my Reggie doll and shouted into the camera’s microphone, “GO RABBITOHS!  GLORY GLORY TO SOUTH SYDNEY!” as loud as my voice could!  Little did I know that that couple seconds of fandom footage would find its way across the globe in just a few hours.  With that out of the way, it was game time!  Knowing that this is where Nigel and Nada would head off to their respected seats, we parted ways.  I told them that if they ever came to NYC, I would buy them a beer at The Australian!  And Nigel promised me that he would tweet me the instant that that article he was writing about me would appear in the paper.

A bunny among saints

A bunny among saints

TO BE CONTINUED…

Next time, the game that we have all been waiting for!  The 2015 World Club Challenge and the exciting conclusion of my Rabbitohs trip to Liverpool!

About admin

I am a graduate of Stony Brook University, and I have a degree in History. I am an avid traveler, with an extensive knowledge of geography, a passion for photography, and a knowledge of animals too. I enjoy pop music of the 1980's, fine dining, movies, baseball, basketball, and rugby.
This entry was posted in England, Europe, Liverpool, Sports in Liverpool and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bunnies in Britain (Part IV): A Bunny Makes it Big in Liverpool!

  1. Patricia Coats says:

    great reading about your adventures jared…i’d be lying if i said i wasn’t a bit jealous…okay…sooo jealous! being another of a mere handful of yankee bunny fans, i have to tell you that your stories are inspiring to me! i hope to someday travel in your footsteps… GO THE BUNNIES! SSTWD! :)

  2. Alisoun Brewster says:

    Jared–sounds like you had a blast!! So happy for you!!!❤️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *