Western Sydney Wanderers v Brisbane Roar, Saturday 6th December 2015, 7.30pm

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The second A-League game of our trip to Sydney took us out to the suburb of Parramatta for the game between Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar.

Parramatta was twenty-odd kilometres away from our hotel in the CBD and as we didn’t have a hire car we were reliant upon public transport. In this case that meant an hour-long ferry ride from the Circular Quay.

It was the sort of journey that you’d happily take just for the sightseeing rather than to actually get somewhere and as we set off we had both the Opera house and the Harbour Bridge in view. The Opera House was a lot smaller than I’d assumed it to be from when I’d seen it on the telly as the backdrop to the New Year fireworks.

We went to a gig there a few days later, not opera, although I wouldn’t have minded that if I’d been able to wear one of those collapsible hats, but Father John Misty. He was ok, better live than recorded, I’d say, with a nice line in self-deprecation over his newly announced Grammy nomination for the quality of the packaging of his latest LP.

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The Harbour Bridge was also smaller than I’d expected. Maybe it’s because these things are famous that I assume they’ll be enormous. You all know what it looks like, it’s just like the Tyne Bridge, which isn’t surprising really as both were built during the same era by Middlesbrough’s own Dorman Long.

As we passed beneath the bridge I looked up at the Teesside steel above me and reflected that the recent steelworks closures meant that there wouldn’t be any future opportunities for me to do the same somewhere new.

I did a bit of work as a contractor at British Steel thirty years or so ago and can remember the fire resistant jacket and trousers that I had to wear when in the vicinity of a furnace. The material was like carpet, which isn’t ideal for trousers. Or jackets either I suppose.

I sweated enough wearing them outside, but that was nothing compared to being indoors in the summer with a furnace blasting out its heat.

It’ll be young Chinese fellas who will have to dress up like that from now on and take their turn to point out their steel when travelling around the world.

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The ferry that we caught sometimes goes all of the way to Parramatta, but on this occasion it only went as far as the Olympic Park and so we then had to catch a couple of buses to get within walking distance of the Pirtek Stadium.

Neither driver would accept any cash from us, I think, as a consequence of the impending implementation of a card-only payment system. If all you had was cash, then you were just waved on-board for free.

Pirtek Stadium dates back to, well, quite a long time ago. Long enough for WG Grace to have played cricket there in the century before last. Or rather the site dates back that far. The current ground’s history only goes back forty years or so.

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There were plenty of people milling around with an hour or so to kick-off, many of them sporting the Dennis the Menace style shirts worn by Western Sydney Wanderers. We queued briefly to collect our pre-booked tickets, using my newly acquired Northern Territories Driving Licence as ID.

I like the idea of having two licences and am hoping that by using my Australian one when in the UK and vice-versa, I might very well be able to reduce the amount of penalty points that I accrue.

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On our way around the ground to the South Stand I was handed a leaflet by a bloke outside of the north terrace. He was a member of a fan’s group who were boycotting the game in protest at the banning of a number of ‘active’ fans.

It’s an A-League wide problem and the main complaint seems to be that the banned supporters had no chance to put evidence forward and no right of appeal. I sympathised with the cause, but my principles aren’t strong enough to miss a game at short notice after travelling from Darwin and with a ticket in my hand.

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We took our seats in the North Stand, opposite the deserted South where the ‘active fans’ would normally have been found. The ten thousand crowd half-filled the stadium but was around four thousand down on their gate from the previous game. On a selfish note, the boycott cut the queues for food and drink and so it was no trouble to get a couple of beers and a very fancy selection of three mini pies.

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The home side opened the scoring after half an hour when Mark Bridge knocked one in at the far post. The lead didn’t last for more than a few minutes though with Jamie McLaren equalising for the visitors.

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There were plenty of chances for both sides in the second half as play opened up, but the only other goal came ten minutes from time when Mitch Nichols curled in the winner. The result was sufficient to take Wanderers to the top of the table.

I’d have liked to have taken the boat back to the Circular Quay for the river view at night, but they’d stopped running and so despite the ‘free’ buses we opted for a taxi for the half hour drive back to our hotel.

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