June, 2010
Chao Phraya River, Bangkok, Thailand

It’s quite weird sitting in an Irish bar watching rugby whilst wearing jandels, board shorts, a neck tie and a dinner jacket, but you’ve got to follow the rules.  So I did.

As more of the boys arrived similarly attired, I actually forgot how strange I looked.  Until Hooey arrived.  He just didn’t fit in.  It wasn’t the red shoes from some women’s department store…I was well used to laughing at those.  It was the jeans.  It was the dress shirt.

It was the whole outfit.

Belly: “Hooey, did you read any of my e-mails?”

Hooey: “Yeah. But not all the way to the bottom.”

So Hooey went home and got changed and did a very good job of it, returning with a weird pair of togs that would get him fined later in the night, and a pair of sandals he must have borrowed from the security guard in his building (which also got him fined).

After watching the All Blacks beat Wales we then watched in amazement as England proceeded to beat the Wallabies.  I had the feeling it was going to be a strange night.

We made our way down to Saphan Thaksin pier and boarded the boat, but not before Richie, our on-land skipper rightfully reminded us of the dangers posed by a mixture of alcohol, boats and larrikinism.  He told us very clearly to look after each other.  We nodded in agreement and jumped on board.

Not only were we having our annual rugby dinner, we were also farewelling several players, so everyone was pumped.  There were ice-boxes full of beer, bottles of whisky, heaps of cider and even a bottle of Bundaberg rum on board (cheers Brian).  The food was great and we even had an iTunes playlist to ourselves.  We didn’t know this at the time, but fate had contrived to give us all the essential ingredients for a truly eventful evening.

The next few hours passed in a blur of Southerners Rugby drinking traditions. We began the official part of the evening with a huge fine session, controlled admirably by our skipper Richie, who somehow managed to keep 25 drunk guys in order and drinking on cue.  It was perhaps his best ever performance as fine-master, an important role which is often overlooked.  A subtle mix of humour and sternness is required from a fine-master and Richie displayed both, punishing loud-talking clowns with drinks and making sure everyone laughed at Beefcake’s and Hooey’s shoes.

Coincidentally, someone decided to bring along a bottle of Laotian snake/scorpion wine, which, along with the Bundaberg rum, was also at a previous eventful Southerners dinner.  Both these drinks were passed around during the fine session, nobody remembering until much later that they were labeled hazardous substances after their appearance at our last club party.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

The raffle draw came next, during which Brad Coulter made a name for himself as being both extremely lucky and extremely generous, after winning most of the main prizes himself but donating them back into the draw since he had already won something.  Top bloke.  Unfortunately this set the tone for the draw, which meant I felt too guilty to keep the gym membership I won from Reedy’s gym after already winning a dinner.  Dammit.

What followed were the best of Southerners traditions.  A large frommelling circle was formed and 3 cans later, several boys had popped their frommelling cherries.  National anthems were sung from each country represented in the club, even the USA, in honour of our recently departed Seppo’s.  Haka’s were performed, debut albums were released and karaoke was sung.
It was a classic rugby dinner.

As we were docking, some hawk-eyed Southerner realized that the boat was actually at the wrong pier, approximately 15km down river.  We also hadn’t quite finished all the beers.  The boat therefore cast off again and we added another 30 minutes to our trip.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

As expected when you get a drunk group of rugby players together, people are bound to butt heads from time to time over decisions of supreme importance.  Khao San Road or Cowboy?  Sangsom or 100 Pipers?  The Bangles or MC Hammer?  The Southerners are no exception.  And just like that show on Discovery Channel, Seconds from Disaster, all the ingredients were in the mixing bowl.  Too much beer.  A dash of Bundaberg rum.  A swig of snake wine.  Our own choice of music.  Our boat trip was only seconds from disaster.

Of course the casual reader will never know what happened during the final 30 minutes of our third annual official rugby dinner.  Like all good rugby clubs, what happens on tour, stays on tour.

All the casual reader must know is this.  It was a fantastic night.  Belly did a cracking job of organizing the whole thing.  We had a great turnout, including several non-Southerners.  We drank, we ate, we frommelled, we sung.  We celebrated being Southerners and we farewelled three great mates Toby, Brian and Hooey.

And no one drowned.

Farewell to Brian, Hooey and Toby – three of the great Southerners men.