It’s farewell to Wally’s media pass for next year’s Super 12 comp, as
he lifts the lid on the Brumbies’rollicking Christmas party last night.
Memo to footballers in all codes: if you’re out on the p*ss after a
Christmas lunch, do not under ANY circumstances walk into a bar that’s
three-quarters full of journalists. Because if trouble brews coverage
is guaranteed.

Your uncle Wally was on his fourth visit to Canberra this year, having
been asked to lead a delegation seeking Federal Government funds and
support to stage the 2020 Olympics at Condobolin in central New South
Wales. The delegation plans to have local boy Shannon Noll, fresh from
his farm motorbike accident – without helmet – not a day after doing
farm safety publicity in Orange, singing a gangster
rap/disco version of the national anthem nude and oiled at the opening ceremony for his adoring pre-pubescent fans.

Then would follow his appalling rendition of “What about me? It isn’t
fair,” for silver medallists cheated out of gold by all those whinnying
athletes looking around the podium for the nearest chaff bag.

There’s nothing like taking on a near-insurmountable challenge and this
crew needed all the help they could muster, so Uncle Wally’s influence
and extensive list of contacts was called upon to at least get them in
some cabinet ministers’ doors. Not long after parting from the
delegation as they headed off to do some Christmas shopping, some old
journo mates suggested a quiet drink at the now-infamous Edgar’s bar at
Ainslie.

Here is the report from this morning’s Canberra Times, filed by their journalist on the scene very late in the evening and perilously close to deadline:

“Brumby in scuffle

Police were called to Edgar’s at Ainslie last night after a scuffle
involving a Brumbies’ rugby player who had been celebrating with team
mates and support staff. Witnesses said about 10pm a punch was thrown
and several chairs damaged outside the pub, which was crowded by
Christmas drinkers. Four police cars were seen at the pub. It’s
believed the Brumbies’ Christmas party took place earlier in the day at
Olim’s Hotel.”

When the Brumbies’ party arrived at Edgar’s, the place was being
patronised by nearly the entire Channel 10 Press Gallery bureau and
journos from Sky News Australia, ABC Radio – the local station and the
Press Gallery bureau – WIN Television, the Canberra Times, a Daily Telegraph operative and Crikey’s rugby correspondent, amongst others.

None of the players, support staff, their girlfriends and groupies were
readily identifiable by Brumbies apparel, but you don’t win a handful
of Super 12 titles for the ACT and expect to remain anonymous in a town
like Canberra – even if you look as if you’re heading to or from the
beach.

They started out well behaved, looked as if they’d had an enjoyable
afternoon and were marginally louder than the patrons who were stone
cold sober – but only marginally and definitely not to an offensive,
boorish level.

Next thing, there’s as many as four police vehicles outside, seven
uniformed policemen and another four wearing police overalls looking
tactical response-like.

It’s alleged that a no-name-of-note patron had given one of the players
a bit of lip outside the bar, a brief scuffle ensued, a punch was
thrown and chairs broken. The no-name-of-note patron allegedly took
umbrage and called the cops.

Your rugby correspondent was inside at the time all this was alleged to
have happened, did not see the incident or afterwards any broken
outdoor chairs.

It was time to step outside and survey the scene. Police were standing
around, one or two taking down details from players, while journos
quietly gathered up snippets of the story to file. The Canberra Times
hackette moved quickly to file some early details to head office, only
to discover that she was beaten to it by a non-journalist patron and a
colleague who I’m told wasn’t even there.

That’s the thing about Canberra. No one looks as if they’re observing
anything, when in fact the bush telegraph moves quicker than the speed
of light. NSW Utilities Minister Frank Sartor found that out this year
when he booked into the Canberra Hyatt with his new girlfriend for a
weekend and it appeared in the Sydney Sunday papers on the next
weekend.

Patrick Corporation’s Chris Corrigan also had a taste of it during the
waterfront dispute a few years ago when he discreetly flew into
Canberra at 6.30am for meetings at Parliament House. He was driven by
taxi to the Hyatt, checked into his room, quickly freshened himself up
and not twenty minutes later stepped outside the front door to be
greeted by a full media scrum. If you want to keep a secret in the
national capital, take it to your grave.

Back inside Edgar’s, it seemed as if one or two in the Brumbies’ party
weren’t overly fussed or hadn’t observed that they were availing
themselves of the womens’ toilet instead of the mens’. An ABC Radio
News press gallery reporter told your correspondent that she couldn’t
get in to use the cubicles because couples were in there having sex: a
claim she repeated to a number of her friends around
the bar with a mixture of astonishment and mild amazement.

Not long after, two men appeared from the women’s toilet and rejoined
their group looking smug but circumspect, with women later appearing
through the same door bearing a highly virtuous visage though slightly
flushed.

Sex in a public toilet has never appealed to your uncle Wally, although
there is a history of it in rugby, especially on end-of-season footy
trips and overseas tours. A female colleague from Crikey’s Rugby bureau
assures me that it is the right of passage for every footballer groupie
and then proceeded to tell me, alas, how she once “extracted the goo”
from a league player years ago in similar circumstances. Good Lord!

Before too long Edgar’s was as good as empty, staff were staking up
chairs and getting everything ready to close up. Edgar’s Chef Steve,
who was running the kitchen for the last night before taking up a new
job on the south side of town, said he hadn’t had a more interesting
night in the place for some time.

But for the no-name-of-note patron allegedly taking a punch and the ABC
reporter wanting to spend a penny, none of the patrons were
inconvenienced by the night’s activities and all went home with a story
to tell. Three quarters of them were journalists, so they be paid to do
so.

“You’ll have to write about this one, Wally,” Steve said. “How do you think you’ll describe the place?”

“Noted Canberra Speakeasy, perhaps?” He laughed heartily, we said
goodnight and soon the northern outskirts of town were passing by.

Peter Fray

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