It would be hypocritical of me to suggest that players shouldn’t drink, but it’s fairly obvious that going out for a few jars with the boys from the opposition isn’t a particularly good idea at the best of times in the era of cameras in mobile phones and Twitter. At the same time you’re not expecting the side to turn into hermits and sit up in the hotel playing the X-Box or whatever. They’re probably going to have to go out to eat, for a start. What you want, under those circumstances, is some sort of protocol to handle these things, and a fair bit of the lap around town went into considering how these things might be done.
For a start, you’ve got three separate environments. There’s the team, and in the days of wives/girlfriends/kids on tour there’s the family and, lastly, there’s the bloke who’s just had a shit of a day and wants to be on his own.
That last one’s easy to handle. If you want to do a Greta Garbo and just be left alone, that’s fine. Stay in the hotel. We’ll arrange appropriate space if required.
In all these cases it should be a case of let us know what you’re after and we’ll fix it for you. That’s not a case of mollycoddling. It’s called damage control.
In a case where the city hosting a Test match is going to have a couple of thousand members of the Barmy Army prowling the pubs and clubs the last thing you want is an Australian player with a chip on his shoulder over something or other running up against the buggers.
So if you’re going to brood, the hotel’s the place to do it.
I’d presume if you’ve got the wife/girlfriend/kids in tow you mightn’t be too keen on heading off for a session with the other fellers, but if you’re looking for a dinner for two, or a family meal somewhere kid-friendly and you’d like us to arrange it…
In those environments I suspect you’re after something low key where you can relax as a couple, family or whatever.
Then there’s the group from the team bit, where there are separate but similar issues. Again, you don’t want to be running across the Barmy Army or getting photos splashed across the front pages of the tabloids. Quiet places where you can eat, have a drink or three, relax and unwind, bond or whatever. There are a number of ex-Australian players in each of the capital cities you could draw on to make sure there are plenty of social options that could be tailored to suit whatever requirements need to be met.
Appoint one bloke as the unofficial social secretary, get him to set up the network and get people out to build up a dossier of possibilities for the side when they’re in that particular city. You could even work it to a point where there’s a bit of intercity rivalry about who can throw up the best selection.
Small things, maybe, but they’re issues that can be delegated, would probably help the internal dynamics of the team, and simultaneously limit any damage that might come from having the wrong bloke in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong company.
If the other mob are going to have a few jars and hose the odd bouncer, pitch or whatever, that’s fine. They can have the headlines. We’d just like the urn back, thank you very much.