Leichhardt Oval: A Bunny in the Tiger’s Den

Next stop, Leichhardt North.

Next stop, Leichhardt North.

A 15 minute ride aboard the Sydney light rail took me from my hotel near Pyrmont Bay in Darling Harbour to the Sydney suburb of Leichhardt North.  I wandered for a few minutes around the charming neighborhood looking for the Leichhardt Oval stadium.  I was most impressed by how lovely the houses looked, not to mention how green and lush the park where the stadium was.  In fact, for a few minutes, I felt like I was back in Long Island, save for the fact that the cars were on the opposite side and many of the houses all had the distinct Aussie architecture of steel-gated terraces and awnings.

Welcome to Leichhardt North

Welcome to Leichhardt North

I was a bit out of breath by the time I made my way up to the entrance from the roundabout hill at the Leichhardt Oval.  There was this man, whom I presumed was an usher.  “Mate, are you looking for someone?” he asked.  I told him that I was here to see my friend who was the ground announcer for the Tigers.  Once I mentioned Bill Gotsis, he smiled and said “Right up there, mate!  Just walk up towards the top of the bleachers!”  It was like that scene in Goodfellas where Henry Hill escorts Karen inside the rear entrance to the Copacabana and they get special treatment at every corner.  I stumbled clumsily up the bleachers and saw Bill behind a big glass window.  I happily waved to him and he waved back.  Bill then directed me behind the bleachers to a set of staircases that led up to the entrances to the announcers booths.

Welcome to the Leichhardt Oval

Welcome to the Leichhardt Oval

It was so surreal to be on the other side of the announcers glass for the first time.  It was definitely a far cry from the stacked-out press boxes so common among American stadiums and ESPN studios.  Still, in spite of the modest setting, it was pretty cool seeing the stadium from this vantage.  After getting comfy, the game was about to get underway.  I was psyched to not only see Bill, but also get a chance to see him pitch his pipes over the P/A announcement.

It was my first soccer match in Australia.  Rugby may rule the roost in the land of roos, but the world’s most popular sport is no exception down under.  It was a match up between the A.P.I.A. Leichhardt Tiger, a semi-professional or “B-grade” team against the professional or “A-league” Wellington Phoenix FC.  The Tigers came out in their robin’s egg blue and maroon jerseys against the bumblebee-like black and yellow duds from Wellington, New Zealand.  As Bill and I watched both teams duke it out, we were accompanied by a few of Bill’s friends and family members.

First, a familiar face: Mario Raciti.  I hadn’t seen Bill’s cousin since his birthday in Kings Cross and the 2013 Rabbitohs qualifying match at ANZ Stadium.  It was so nice seeing Mario, or as Bill called him, “Muzza”!  I was joined by another one of Bill’s relatives, Byron Lockwood and an acquaintance of Bill’s, Mark.  We had a few good laughs and posed for a few photos with each other.

(from left to right) Byron, Bill, Mark, and Mario. Just a few of my favorite Aussies!

(from left to right) Byron, Bill, Mark, and Mario. Just a few of my favorite Aussies!

The game ended in a 5-3 win for Wellington.  In spite of the loss for the Tigers, I spotted many members of the crowd standing up and applauding for their boys.  After the game, Bill took me through the team tunnel; I didn’t even mind that it was plastered with Wests Tigers logos everywhere.  Not to sound prejudiced, but GO RABBITOHS!  Bill and I posed for one last photo before heading back to the Leichhardt North light rail stop.  It was most certainly an exciting night for sports and family.  Well, my Australian family nonetheless!  I may be a die-hard Bunnies fan, but after that night, consider me a Tigers fan!  Sorry Wests and Balmain, not you.

The Bunny and the Tiger

The Bunny and the Tiger

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.
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