[A FUN ONE] A RUGBY GUIDE TO DRINKING IN SYDNEY

Carousing, getting after it, hitting the piss. Whatever you call a bunch of bros going to bars together, here is how it was done in 2007, by an exceptionally charming pack of rugby players in Sydney. It is a journey, composed of five acts.


Photo Credit: Brett Matthews


Act One: Sydney University Rugby Club Grandstand Bar. 5:00pm.


Everyone is still hanging out at the Grandstand when my teammates and I return from our away game. The old boys, significant others, and even kids. The crowd gets both smaller and louder as drinks flow. Eventually the women and children have witnessed enough and head home.


Hanging out with the old boys is a blast. They buy us pints without expecting a 1:1 return. We swap stories and laugh at jokes we couldn’t tell before.


Yet deep down our hearts are restless. Our win that day, along with beer, has our confidence and vanity surging. There’s a big city waiting on us, with unlimited possibilities for laughs, adventure and love. By god, we’re losing time with every new joke.


The old boys must have noticed this a long time ago and kept us longer for their own amusement. With hearty hugs and handshakes, they finally release us. Their final parting words: “Good luck…not that we ever needed it.”


Photo Credit: Alfred Hotel Instagram


Act Two: Grose Farm Hotel Bar (now called the Alfred Hotel Bar). 8:00pm.


Ten of us take a short walk to a classic Australian pub known as “the Grose.” We’re hit with a wave of laughs and cheers as we enter. Tonight, the crab races are on.


For the entry price of a beer, each of us selects a hermit crab with a number painted on its shell. At post time all contenders are released in the center of a circular table about five feet in diameter. The first crab to crawl past the outermost circle wins, and to its owner goes the purse of more drinks.


One of our teammates is both the bartender and referee. He knows which crabs are in a running mood and guides our group to a near clean-sweep. When we ask him how many times he’s abused his position to impress girls, he beams an innocent smile and dares to call himself a gentleman. But what do we care? We’ve got so much free beer in front of us that we can afford a much-needed dinner.


Until you sit in a Sydney pub you cannot imagine how good the food is for a shockingly reasonable price. For $8 we all enjoy a perfectly tender 8oz steak or juicy sausage and mashed potatoes, a perfect portion to get some food in our bellies before heading to the next stop.


Photo Credit: Tripadvisor


Act Three: The Golden Sheaf Hotel. 11:00pm.


Not really a hotel, the Golden Sheaf is more a series of three different bar concepts packed into one huge building. Up front is a traditional pub, populated by what we considered older men, probably in their forties. Out back is a beer garden with big screens. The screens play rugby games or music videos selected from a jukebox. Upstairs is a trendy club with a young professional crowd vibing to deep house, sipping cocktails beyond our means, and talking about subjects beyond our interest or experience.


No matter how much a person drinks, walking between these three bars, all packed with different looking crowds, is like walking around in a lucid dream.


We are most at home in the beer garden. We eat chips (aka french fries) drizzled with sour cream and sweet chili sauce. We play air guitar as “November Rain” plays on the big screen…for the second time. For reasons beyond everyone’s comprehension, no women want to talk to us. The night is running short, time for drastic measures.



Photo Credit: The Daily Review


Act Four: Mansions Hotel in Kings Cross[i]. 2:00am.


“The Cross” is the red-light district of Sydney, the only destination for those trying hard to keep the night going.


I’ve never seen Mansions before 2:00am. I can only recall a few features. The music is cranked to 11, and it’s impossibly dark, with a smoky bluish hue coming from a light source that I could never identify.


Not everyone is up for this last hail mary, and for good reason. Going to Mansions in the hopes of sparking a conversation with a girl makes zero sense because no one can hear anything over music.


Our pack of ten guys has dropped to four, and even the last four are struggling to keep track of each other. We all reluctantly resign to the fact that the night is over. Of the four that came to Mansions, it’s now just me and one friend, Dave.


Photo Credit: Reddit Handle u/deckland


Act Five, McDonald’s in Kings Cross. 4:00am


McDonald’s. The final destination for wandering souls as dawn approaches. The giant, electric red sign draws us in like mosquitos. If the building was an old-fashioned bug trap, bodies would be stacked five feet high. Inside is tired and bewildered chaos.


We spot one of our missing friends and yell his name. He’s too busy praying to a Big Mac to hear. We order and wait for what could be five minutes or forty-five minutes. No way to keep track. We join our friend, eat nuggets, and laugh jealously about the only comrade that picked up a girl. “Good on him, the big fella.”


Conclusion: An Old Boy Looking Back


There’s a feeling I had on nights like this one that I now consider pure foolishness: Something magical may happen tonight and we must keep going until it does. We all believed it and struck out together to find that something, wherever it may be or whatever shape it may take. With age we get tired of seeing that schoolboy game reach the same predictable conclusion, and we simply go to bed.


While I hope my future kids don’t do everything I did at 22, I look forward to seeing that restless look in their eye on a Saturday night. I’ll give them a pat on the back and wish them well.


“Good luck…not that I ever needed it.”


This picture of the boys was taken with an actual camera.



Acknowledgments

I wrote this essay as part of an online writing course, Write of Passage. If you enjoyed the essay, much of the credit goes to Sandra Sanchez and Mike Woitach. They invested themselves in the writing and gave invaluable feedback. I owe you all big time!




[i] The Mansions Hotel building was converted to luxury apartments in 2011.