Having a beer with Freddie
FORMER Lismore lad Ben Larsson, now living in England, hit the sporting jackpot after he entered a competition on a newspaper website just before the Ashes series in Australia last summer. The winner got to take five mates to Lord's, the home of cricket, for a two-hour net session with Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff, a tour of the ground and a couple of hours with the star England all-rounder over a pint in the Lord's Tavern, the pub within the ground. Ben takes up the story: "When the bloke rang up in late April to tell me that I'd won, the irony of an Australian having won a competition with England's top all-rounder (especially after we'd just whipped them 5-zip in January) wasn't lost on him. "His comment was 'Yeah well, sometimes you run things like this and sometimes it just blows up in your face ... "I don't think his frame of mind was helped when I (in jest) asked him if Ricky Ponting was available instead of Flintoff. "I was just kidding; Freddie had won the Ashes for England two years earlier and was renowned as one of world cricket's great characters, as well as for a well-publicised liking for a drink. "Anyway, I rang five mates in London (who I knew from playing rugby in Sydney or having lived with at Emmanuel Collage at the University of Queensland in Brisbane) and they were all pretty excited about the prospect of a day with Freddie at Lord's. "So on Tuesday (June 26), we all met at Lord's just ahead of the 11am kick-off and had the tour of the ground first. "The Long Room (complete with Warnie's portrait prominently placed at the head of the room) was pretty special, as was sitting in Steve Waugh's old seat upstairs in the visitors' dressing room. "We got out on the balcony where that famous shot of the 1989-winning Australian team was taken and got a great perspective of the famous Lord's slope. "The museum was stocked with all sorts of priceless cricket memorabilia as well as the holy grail itself the Ashes. "We then stuck our heads into the new media centre at the far end of the ground for a quick look, then headed down to the nets to meet Fred." Ben said Flintoff was very relaxed and chatty and set them up in some adjacent nets. "Our lack of net time since school was immediately apparent," Ben said. "He gave us plenty of tips, however, and the MCC coach also pitched in to sort out our rusty techniques. "Afterwards, we headed off to the pub for a few pints where Fred was very happy to discuss anything and everything. "Totally decent bloke, straight up with no bull dust, and was good enough to have a laugh about the Ashes result in January and the peddlo incident at the World Cup as well as telling us about the traits of various Australian and English cricketers. "Very relaxed, easy to yarn to, a good fella. "A few photos later, he had to head off to get back to Manchester, and we'd had one helluva day."