Andrew Bryan, NRL.com
It is one of the biggest sporting events on the Australian calendar and it attracts fans from across the globe. From England to the United States, fans at this year’s State of Origin series will have travelled hundreds of thousands of kilometres to experience The Greatest Game of All for themselves.
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For a Rugby League-obsessed family from Hull, England, the 2013 State of Origin series represents the trip of a lifetime.
For three generations of the Stamp family – Ron, son Ian and grandson Leo – it is a Rugby League odyssey over 30 years in the making. Ian’s dad Ron has always dreamed of watching Rugby League in Australia and attending the State of Origin series. Seeing life pass by ever-more-quickly and his father undergoing knee replacement surgery to replace joints worn after years of electrical installations, plus his battling to recover from a stroke a few years ago, the decision was made by Ian and his wife Gabriela to help fulfil Ron’s dream.
The original plan had been for Ian, Gabriela and son Leo to visit Disneyworld in Florida, but when the idea was raised to visit Australia and see State of Origin instead, Leo was asked which he would prefer. The response came without hesitation – a visit to see State of Origin moved into gear.
The dream of coming to Origin from the other side of the world is set to become a reality. To finally experience the true intensity of the pinnacle of Australian and arguably world Rugby League after a lifetime of supporting The Greatest Game of All is but a couple of weeks and a very long flight away.
“Dad is getting on and his health hasn't been great over the past few years,” Ian told NRL.com.
“Watching the State of Origin series in Australia has been something he has always wanted to do and I thought what the heck, let's do it while we can and give him something he has always dreamt of and wanted to do.”
The series represents the best of Rugby League, the greatest of rivalries (outside of Hull KR v Hull FC Ian cheekily points out). So with an eager 12-year-old son whom he helps coach in junior Rugby League, his wife and his parents, Ian and the Stamp household will converge on Australia for a three-week Rugby League pilgrimage.
From State of Origin at ANZ Stadium on June 5, to NRL games across the country, the Stamp family will pack as much Rugby League as they can into their 21-day visit to Australia. As well as the Origin Series, they are hoping to see the Titans in Brisbane, the Storm in Melbourne and the Sea Eagles in Sydney.
Ian also would like to surprise his son Leo by taking him to experience a coaching session with a junior Rugby League club while visiting these shores, to give him some true Australian experience during his time Down Under.
“We will look to do city tours and see as much as we can in each of the cities, but as my parents are in their 70s we'll have to play it a bit by ear,” Ian continues.
“My father and son are massive Rugby League fans and Hull Kingston Rovers (Hull KR) are our team. We have watched them through the good times and bad; the glory days of the ’80s, the slow decline through to the low points of the ’90s to the resurrection of achieving a place in the Super League of the present day.
“Although the team is struggling to find consistency at the moment, we have a good mix of young players with potential and some good recruits from Australia who are playing really well – Cory Patterson, Mickey Paea and Michael Dobson who are also being coached by another Aussie, Craig Sandercock.
“It's the best game in the world! There's lots of action, it’s physical and the players are powerful, fast, skilful and also have a great respect for each other.”
While the Stamp family will undoubtedly visit the Great Barrier Reef, theme parks, zoos and the Sydney Opera House among other attractions, the journey is all about Ian giving his dad a chance to live out his lifelong dream, the chance to experience State of Origin first-hand in Australia.
It is the ultimate Rugby League pilgrimage and the chance to share a dream together and have memories to cherish for a lifetime.
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