Saturday, April 5th, 2014

The tour started with an ominous tone thanks to a classic rookie error. Despite being uncharacteristically organised and packing my bags the night before the trip, I inexplicably decided 15 minutes before I was due to leave for the airport that my iPhone was not completely up-to-date with the latest music sitting on my computer. “I’ll just quickly plug in the phone and sync with iTunes”, I thought, “should take maybe 5 minutes at the most”. After 30 exasperating minutes of what seemed to be inconclusive progress bar animation, I had to make the call. The phone was unplugged, and we were on our way. On route, I reviewed my music collection for what would be significant entertainment on our upcoming nine hour flight to Bangkok. I believe I had roughly 2,000 songs previously, before the syncing attempt. Post sync attempt, 30 songs now remained. Just quietly, that was not my intended result.  Most devastatingly, the jewel of the collection – and one that would be the unofficial “rev up” song for the Australian Fistball Team – had been removed. Plans now needed to be changed. We would no longer be gathering in a circle pre game, arms around shoulders and belting out Joe Esposito’s classic number “You’re The Best”. It seems we’ll have to settle for A-ha’s “Take On Me” instead.

Putting aside that drama, we assembled in PJ O’Briens at Melbourne Airport and had a pint of Guinness to settle our nerves. Departing from Melbourne were captain & FiFA president Rolf “Godfister” Petersen, gun forward James “The Coburg Sledgehammer” Atkinson, crafty utility Eric “The Dog” Maddocks and myself – Chris “Super Mario” Milne, solid defensiveman/setter.  As we sat around the table with our white shirts and yellow ties sitting pretty under our magnificent national green blazers, we seemed to catch the eye of a few curious travellers.  It was as if they wanted to be excited about seeing a sporting celebrity, but couldn’t work out exactly who to be excited about. One young man assumed we played cricket… and understandable mistake. Everyone else just seemed to stare at the Coat of Arms on our blazers and then walk away confused. We had another pint of Guinness each to relax the mind and headed to check-in. The attendant at Thai Airways check-in was convinced that she was familiar with the sport, and that her son in fact played fistball. Unlikely. He may just need to clear his browsing history.

Prior to departure, we gathered again in the café/bar area and had a round of VB’s to celebrate our impending flight. We had checked in last, so we were right at the back of the plane. Perhaps we shouldn’t have assumed that we’d be upgraded to Business Class once they saw our blazers. We had another round of VB’s to prepare ourselves. As I was exiting the bathroom pre boarding, our glorious captain and FiFA President Rolf Petersen handballed the fistball he was carrying at high speed, directly at my face. I instinctively raised my fist and knocked the ball into the ceiling before catching it as it dropped. The ruckus may have interrupted the streams of the other bathroom patrons, but I now knew I was ready for Pakistan. Time to get on the plane.

Review of Thai Airways flight TG 466: comfortable seating, excellent entertainment selection and edible food. Four stars.

We arrived in Bangkok exhausted and a little hungover, but very much excited. This would be the time for team bonding and strategy discussion. And probably beers. It would also be the first time star spiker Lee “Knuckles/ The Power Station” Morony would be joining us on tour. We settled in at the hostel, ordered a beer and waxed lyrical about what was to come. Then we slept.

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