In 2013, I just happened to be working in Sydney Australia at the same time that the British and Irish Lions were playing the third and final test against the Wallabies. As soon as I landed in Australia I started searching for a ticket and, with the help of one of my business contacts, I managed to buy a ticket. For me, it was a dream come true. I had followed the British and Irish Lions in tours since I can remember, and when I was young this meant waking up early in the morning to listen to a test match on the radio with my Dad.
To be honest I had no idea whether the site from which I bought the ticket was legitimate or not. I had to collect my ticket from the seller near the stadium and so, despite the game not kicking off until 8pm in the evening, I took the hour long train journey from the centre of Sydney to the ANZ Stadium in the morning. When I arrived, the collection stand was only just being erected. Five minutes later I was in possession of the precious ticket. To say I was relieved is an understatement. I then spent the day watching and photographing the growing throng of Lions supporters gathering outside the stadium.
Being in the stadium was a unique experience. I have watched Wales win Grand Slams at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, but this was very different. The camaraderie of the Lions fans was very special, with all UK nationalities joining together to roar the men in the red shirts on.
Coach, Warren Gatland, had controversially selected ten Welsh players and controversially dropped legend Brian O’Driscoll for the game with with the test series in the balance at 1-1. The Lions were desperate to win having not won a test series since the 1997 series against South Africa. The pressure was on. But Gatland had a plan.
- Photo gallery: Around and inside the ANZ Stadium for the final 2013 Australia vs British & Irish Lions test match
The game was incredible. At half-time, the Lions led 19-10. However, in the second half, they literally tore the Wallabies apart. By the time the final whistle sounded, the Lions had scored four tries to Australia’s one and won the game 41-16.
The atmosphere in the stadium was incredible. The Aussie fans had been steadily leaving the stadium in droves, and the stands became bright red. We hugged each other, we cried and we sang. Emotion oozed from every Lions supporter’s pores. By the time I left the stadium and caught the train back to the centre of Sydney, it was late. It was on the train that I took some candid photographs of the fans. The red clad Lions supporters appeared exhausted from the emotion of a series winning test match.
One photograph in particular was selected by the global CMRE Urban Photographer of the Year to appear in their annual book for hour 11. The photograph was taken candidly and I was holding the camera at waist level to ensure the subjects didn’t know they were being photographed. I took two or three photographs, of which one ended up appearing in the book. It just illustrates that the best photographs are often about catching a special moment in time.
A truly memorable day and I have the photographs to prove that I was there!
Paul Fears is a professional photographer based in South Wales, UK