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7 December 2020

The ship started to rock and roll as we steamed out of Sydney Harbour. The previous day, the Illawarra rumour mill had been a buzz with news that 3 time world surfing champion, Mick Fanning, had been tackling the massive surf off the East Coast. “Yesterday the swells were 7 metres” a crew member told us.

It wasn’t THAT big the day we sailed but we still felt like a cork in the ocean. Meals aboard came in buffet-form and we were 13 hungry adventurers. This had trouble written all over it. There were a few pale faces that evening but luckily we awoke on Tuesday morning to a sparkling winter’s day and a glassy-flat Tasman Sea.

The days and nights aboard the good ship P&O Explorer were packed with awesome activities. Mostly it was footy related (fine by us footy heads) but there were also movies, games, waterslides and all manner of quirky live performances.

Joining us aboard were Rugby League greats Geoff Toovey, Benny Elias, Petro Civoniceva and Scott Prince. Getting to meet and greet with these legends was certainly an onboard highlight and plenty of selfies were snapped and autographs signed. One of our travellers (who won’t be named) was even sin-binned by Rugby League refereeing royalty, Bill Harrigan, for heckling his brother during a pass-the-ball competition.

But it was the football we were here for. Australia’s greatest sporting rivalry. State against State, mate against mate. The State of Origin Rugby League.

Almost 90,000 rabid fans packed Melbourne’s MCG and much to the delight of 12 of our 13 travellers Freddy Fittler’s “Baby Blues” prevailed 22-12 over the Queenslanders.

It was a contented 2-day journey home and as we sailed past the Opera House and under the Harbour Bridge, it was hard not to think what a special experience the whole voyage had been. Once in a lifetime this salt-hardened sailor thinks… Actually… When is the next Melbourne Origin?