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Melbourne Football Club

The China Diaries - Day 9

It was an early start for all concerned. Many were up at 6 am, as an early breakfast, check-out and bus trip to Beijing were on the cards.

We headed to Hongqiao Airport and flew to Beijing at 10 am, although a second group left at 10.30 am.

Some delays and rescheduling occurred - due to inclement weather - and eventually we were on a bus to Beijing at around 3 pm.

It would be another two hours before we reached our destination. We were to be camping on the Great Wall of China, but the rainy and wet conditions changed plans.

Instead, a last minute camp/retreat was our stay for the night.

It had a school camp-type feel - there was a big common area, with plenty of couches, stools and tables and bar. There was even a stage, which would be utilised in the evening, following Chris Connolly’s suggestion of a ‘Don Lane variety show night’.

After a great and very filling barbecue dinner, the touring party settled in for a top night’s entertainment.

Following some ditties and updates from the respective teams - Chopsticks (which produced a song titled ‘It’s a long way to the chop’, Suns and Pandas) - it was onto the variety show.

Connolls was MC and his first act to introduce was none other than Liam Jurrah, who showed yet another string to his almighty talent.

Jurrah strummed the guitar and sang a song from his hometown - a song about Yuendumu.

With his indigenous teammates by his side, Jurrah captured the audience within an instant. Everyone was glued to his performance - it was a great way to start the night.

The quirky, dry wit of Martin Cox followed.

The marketing guru’s ghost story kept the masses on the edge of their seat, as they waited for his next line. It was always going to be a hard act following Jurrah, but Coxy’s ghost story was a beauty and he came through with the goods.

Then it was big Maxy Walker’s turn.

The much-loved Australian (can you believe he achieved every Melbourne supporting cricket lover’s dream?) was sensational.

Connolly asked Walker to recount some stories against every cricketing nation, but his under-arm story against New Zealand, and his tales of the West Indies, were all he could fit in during his act.

Walker had the crowd eating from the palm of his hand, as he talked about his time with Melbourne and playing for Australia.

Once it was time for Walker to finish, he was back to snapping shots up closely - I’ve never seen anyone more enthusiastically taking photos.

For a guy who could’ve been distant with the group, Walker was one of the most engaging characters and friendly people you could meet.

Vice-president Don McLardy sang the complete Gilligan’s Island theme song with the help of some back-up singers.

McLardy was crisp and precise with his words - particularly the second verse (it is believed McLardy is the only person in Australia to know the second verse … well, at least according to Connolly!)

Rockin’ Ronny did a great job singing a couple of Elvis numbers, with Matthew Bate on guitar, while key supporter Tim from Allans Billy Hyde won plenty of laughs with his stand-up joke.

Austin Wonaeamirri then sang a Tiwi Islands song with Josh Mahoney, with back-up support from his indigenous teammates. Mahoney knew the words following his trip to Tiwi with Aussie a couple of years back.

Club great Brian Dixon then finished it off with a rousing rendition of ‘It’s a Grand Old Flag’ - including the second verse.

Dixon’s additional lyric at the end of the song: “We bowled them over” was enough to get the current players pushing for the introduction of this line!

Once the ‘official’ variety show had ended, the ‘unofficial’ line-up played.

Aaron Davey pulled out the guitar and gathered a sing-a-long to such well known hits as ‘Summer of ‘69’.

Once again, a top night was had by all!

And it was a great effort from the organising committee to pull off this venue, considering the weather halted the plans.