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Melbourne Football Club

The China Diaries - Day 2

As we take off and start settling in for our eight-hour flight, most turn to their headphones for their in-flight entertainment or iPods.

I turn to my trusty iPod, which isn’t so for the first time!

I’m slightly annoyed as I’d decided to listen to whatever came on shuffle. The challenge was set not to skip or repeat anything - no matter how bad the song was. With almost 19,500 songs to choose from, I’m greeted with The Beatles’ ‘Get Back’ as my first for the journey.

Some Silverchair, David Bowie, Kaiser Chiefs, Elton John and New Order are among the early tunes, before a combination of nodding off and ‘technical difficulties’ halt the process at around song No. 15.

By the time we arrive in Hong Kong, it’s 5.50am.

Soon, Melbourne’s greatest games record holder David Neitz is one of the first seen with a brew via Starbucks Coffee.

All is going beautifully until football staff members Chris Connolly, Kelly O’Donnell and Ian Flack, as well as Glenn Balmforth, from the community department, are delayed. They are later informed a five-hour delay is in order.

For young Balmforth - a Tasmanian travelling further than Victoria for the first time - this is an experience. But he is in the trusty, experienced hands of messrs Connolly, O’Donnell and Flack.

Chief executive Cameron Schwab is already relishing his new camera - and rivaling any tourist in the world for the amount of pics he is capturing (and we’re still in airports!).

We leave Hong Kong for Hangzhou at 8am and arrive at 10.15am.

Soon we are on the bus to Moganshan, a mountain-top tourist region located near Hangzhou in the Zhejiang Province.

But controversy soon breaks out when Schwab confronts the members on the bus about his stolen vanilla chocolate mousse. It went missing while he was asleep on the flight from Hong Kong to Hangzhou.

The much-loved Matty Goodrope (from communications/website) - the youngest staff member at Melbourne on the trip - is quickly accused. But he is adamant he didn’t steal the CEO’s mousse. The saga continues …

By 1.30pm, the weary travelers arrive at Moganshan.

A beautiful lunch is served, featuring local produce.

But soon, all involved in the trip realise that such culinary delights require walking up and down plenty of steps - and a walk around 30 minutes.

The feast is followed by a one-hour walk among the bamboo forest, before the tired group has a quick kip or rest before dinner.

At 7pm, mini buses take the party down the winding Moganshan roads where a pig on a spit awaits.

The food is plentiful and delicious.

We listen to a guest speaker over dinner - an Englishman residing in China by the name of Mark Kitto. He gives a brief history on Moganshan and scratches the surface of his own personal journey in the country.

The dinner is divided into tables featuring the three teams for the trip: The Flying Chopsticks Panda-Monia, Modium or Moni … something (they’re not even sure) and the Hung Long Suns.

The Choppys are coached by Tim Harrington and captained by Cale Morton; the Pandas are coached by commercial/sales guru Tom McClure and captained by Matthew Warnock and the Suns are coached by Chris Connolly and captained by Aaron Davey.

During the evening, Connolly gives genuine thanks and well wishes to soon-to-be-departing Dee Kyle Cheney, who was traded to Hawthorn earlier in the day.
There are somewhat mixed emotions for Cheney, but one member of the football staff said he was in a “good place” about the decision.

Cheney will stay with Melbourne for most of the tour, but won’t play in the match, despite initially being named in the side.

Soon, Connolly brings the mood back with his legendary dry sense of humour, complete with deadpan face.

As usual, he has the crowd eating from the palm of his hand.

It will be a common theme for the rest of the tour.

Just as Schwab’s mousse investigations could be - since he raised the issue again over dinner!