Hong Kong Sevens

Aussies carry plenty of baggage

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 12:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 12:25pm

They’re a weird mob, Australians at the Sevens. The Land Down Under has won a World Cup 15s more recently than they’ve won a Hong Kong Sevens. The last victory on this turf was in 1988.

They’re the only country in the world to eat both animals on their coat of arms – poor Skippy and emu. The first Australian word in the Oxford dictionary was "Kangaroo". So who decided to call the rugby team "the Wallabies’’? And their early Hong Kong sevens teams "the Wallaroos"?

It was all downhill from there.

And Australians even put "G’day" in their Macquarie dictionary. It sits right between "Gdansk" (Poland) and "GDP", perhaps showing Australia’s bent for money and multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism wasn’t en vogue at the time Dane Jorn Utzon designed the Sydney Opera House. Sometimes Australians call this amazingly iconic piece of architecture, "the Cleavage".

Last week, it was 100 years ago since the first foundation stone was placed for the formation of Canberra, the nation’s capital, the political capital, and a satellite city that some say should be shot into orbit.

David Campese played at several Hong Kong Sevens and was player of the tournament at the 1991 Rugby World Cup. He is also the son of post-war Italian migrants who settled in Queanbeyan, near Canberra. His father told the bricklayers to step aside, and built the family home, brick by brick. His son then built a name for himself on the pitch with his incredible goose step, first aired at the Hong Kong Sevens.

Campese has a strong accent. Even Australians laugh at their own accents, and so does Comedian Danny Bhoy, an Indian from Glasgow. He says that some "Australian accents are not so much spoken, they bungee jump out of the mouth. And sometimes the cord snaps, like when they say "I knoooooooooooooooooooooooooow."

Australians and New Zealanders share rivalry as to who invented the Pavlova and bungee jumping, but when it comes to budgie smugglers, Australians are all on their own. You always see Aussies dressed up like this and the ubiquitous gold jerseys that stand out like the proverbials.

But whether in the stadium or, in their own country, Australians know how to party. This month, they hosted the Mardi Gras (the "Gay and Lesbian" has been dropped from the name these days). The event is said to bring over AUD$30 million annually in revenue.

It’s a shame the Australians haven’t built on their initial Sevens success. The Aussies in the stadium suffer a severe case of Sturm und Drang when their team takes to the pitch. Waiting for another win for 25 years requires patience.

The Australian Consulate believes there are now over 80,000 Australians living in Hong Kong. (There’s more Australians here than Brits). But that doesn’t stop them from being booed once they take the pitch every year. There are some reports of Australia being not altogether friendly to one team on the pitch in the early 1980s, but no one has been able to clarify this, so it’s all hearsay (Australians might say its heresy).

Of his own experience dressed as an Australian at the Sevens, Ieuan Evans said tongue in cheek: "It was a bizarre experience being pummelled with oranges in the stand, wearing the green and canary yellow. There is a hate-hate relationship between Australia and the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens."

He’s not the only Welshman struggling to come to terms with Australian’s baggage, or baggage in Australia. Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert gives his take:

When Australians are booed at the Sevens, they don’t turn their pink-zinc covered noses away. They laugh in the face of it.

As actress Ethel Barrymore said: "You grow up the day you have your first real laugh – at yourself."

Aussies haven’t had much choice for years but to do that at the Sevens.

And I’m one of them.