Tour a labour of love for Aussie Rules ambassadors

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 September, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 September, 1996, 12:00am

A year is a long time in football, just ask Australian Football League stars Stephen Silvagni and Ang Christou.

Twelve months ago the pair were helping Carlton demolish Geelong in the AFL grand final in front of 90,000-odd screaming fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

On Saturday, they were sitting in Winners Sports Bar in Central, watching the big screen while North Melbourne did the same thing to Sydney in this year's edition of the AFL's biggest game.

'Yes, I suppose it is a bit bizarre in a sense, especially as we were playing last year,' said Silvagni, who was recently named full-back in a team of the AFL's best players from the past 100 years.

'In fact, it's the first time I've even been out of Melbourne for the grand final.' So what brought them to Hong Kong, a place where the Australian game is screened twice a week but attracts hardly any attention? 'The AFL and one of its major sponsors, Ansett Australia, flew a few of us to places in Asia - Hong Kong, Jakarta and Bali - to help promote the game,' explained Silvagni.

'And while it would be a number of years down the line before there is a team based outside the country, I'm sure it is there somewhere as part of the AFL's plans.' And so the pair sat and watched as the two teams prepared to go out to play, greeted as they were by the cheers of the tens of thousands at the ground, the millions around Australia - and the hundred or so expat Australians and assorted hangers-on in Central.

It wasn't a hard way to earn a day's pay, but both Silvagni and Christou would no doubt have rather been at the MCG.

'To think, this time last year it was us in the changing rooms getting ready to go out and play,' said Christou.