When the concept of playing in China was first announced, it was almost a year away from the game, so it didn’t quite feel real. I’d be lying if I said that the playing group gave it a lot of thought at that time.
However, when the opposition were announced it started to feel real, which led to plenty of excitement amongst the boys. Footy is one of those games though where you can’t look too far ahead.
Even in pre-season, we saw that the match was going to be in Round 8, so you couldn’t give it to much thought as we had to focus on getting the start of the season right.
It probably wasn’t until the week before the game that the boys started to really figure out what was happening and to plan for it. Excitement was building…
It was my first time to China and the first time for a lot of the playing group which made it a special experience.
We were well looked after when it came to the transit aspect. Cathay Pacific are a sponsor of ours and they made things as easy as possible for the 25 players who went over. We caught a flight to Hong Kong, and then had a little stop over before flying into Shanghai.
Overall, it took about 18 hours but only 10 hours of flight time so it was hassle free. Going over on the Wednesday gave a couple of days to run the junk out of the legs and acclimatise. The boys were a bit heavy-legged on the Thursday at training, but we got better each day.
We had half a day on Friday to look around and another on Saturday to do things around Shanghai. The boys went off in little groups and did various activities.
Everyone saw The Bund River that goes along the financial district and is one of the most popular tourist attractions. A few other boys went off to the markets and the gardens to check all of that out.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the markets so I’m sure I missed some of the bartering that went on! I would have loved to see how the guys fared in that situation.
It’s a very clean city and certainly a good experience.
People told us before we went that we would get stopped everywhere, but it didn’t play out like that at all. When we were in the bus and traveling as a team, people would have a look and point a bit, but there was nothing noticeable when we were walking around.
It was quite funny because I was expecting to see a lot of tourists, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of westerners where we were.
The media exaggerated a lot of the conditions. From my perspective, it was certainly quite warm but not super-hot.
Coming from Adelaide, we’re used to it being cooler at this time of year, but the higher temperature didn’t bother us. The smog was also no issue, and the day we played on Sunday was a beautiful and clear day.
The oval was in terrific nick as well. It was just like playing somewhere in Australia. No players had difficulty breathing or anything like that. I’d compare it to playing in Perth based on the temperature, but just slightly more humid.
The MCG staff flew over once a month and ran the maintenance of the surface and they created a beautiful ground for us to play on. We couldn’t fault it at all — it looked amazing from a distance and then it felt really lush.
It’s a bit of a waste that we only get to play on it once a year! We can always look forward to playing over there now knowing that there’s a quality deck to run around on.
I was wondering what the crowd would be like because the stadium isn’t as big, but we had a large contingent of loyal Port Adelaide supporters who made the effort to go over for it.
It felt like our home game because of it — they were loud and proud and embraced the event. The people who were there who were watching AFL for the first time were a little confused but they still got involved.
Even some of the police officers were getting involved towards the end! Hopefully we’ve picked up some new fans.
The Gold Coast boys flew back straight after the game so we didn’t catch up with them, but we stayed around on Sunday night and enjoyed ourselves before flying back the next day.
We hung out as a team and got the family and friends who came over to join in on the experience. It was a good opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and reminisce about the week and how important it was for our club. We had a bit of a look around that night but nothing got out of hand.
That’s the thing about footy, you can’t dwell on success too much because we have another game coming up after this week. I know it’s said a lot, but that’s how things are driven these days.
This year has been successful, and it’s a long-term investment by the club to continue this. I think the plan is to keep doing this for at least the next five years which is something to look forward to. The club did a great job to make the situation felt as normal as possible.
This week will all be about relaxing and enjoying the next few days off. We don’t have to train until Friday so I’m looking forward to playing some golf and resting the body.
A few boys actually stayed in China and went to Hong Kong and Beijing and did the Great Wall. Everyone will take their own unique approach during the time off, but the key is resting up and getting ready for the long season ahead.