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3 days ago
"Thank you, across the bridge and through the castle doors" exclaims the guide.
As I walk across the old wooden bridge, I peer into the water below and catch a glimpse of the crocodiles that inhabit the moat, protecting the castle styled museum.
A sign proclaims "Sponsored by Australia Zoo" and it dawns on me this security measure is the result of the relationship between Russell Crowe and the late, great Steve Irwin.
"That figures", I thought to myself as I head into the first of the three room tour.
The room I enter is called "The Lord Fauntleroy Foyer" and an entire wall showcases the trophies, medals, cups and ribbons won by a young Jason Taylor.
The guide commences the tour.
"Jason has had a stellar career in Rugby League as a player.
He was a schoolboy prodigy, playing his junior football with the fiercely competitive Ashcroft Club and then on to represent the nursery of champions, St Gregory's Campbelltown where he was awarded the Peter Sterling medal in 1989.
Later that year, he was chosen alongside Brad Fittler, Julian O'Neill, Jamie Ainscough and Jason Death to play in the Australian Schoolboys representative team against the touring British Amateur Rugby League squad."
"Through to the Great Bear Hall please", the guide insisted.
It occurred to me that Taylor really had the very best of introductions into the top flight.
Had this stymied his ability to "see all"?
"The Great Bear Hall" houses exhibits celebrating the top flight club career of Taylor, having played for Wests, Norths, Northern Eagles and Parramatta.
"The Grizzly Billiard Bar" takes pride of place and as the guide explains "this grand area is the highlight of the Museum as it honours the playing career of Jason while at North Sydney, the club he amassed 1274 points for out of a career total of 2107, which stood as an Australian record when he retired".
"Very impressive", I deduced.
Two unusual items on the bar itself, catch my eye.
The first, a plastic cup is given some prominence and I ask the guide "what's that"?
A curt reply ensued.
"Gentlemen use that if the Northern Eagles lavatory is inoperative".
(Taylor was involved in a alcohol fuelled incident at an SCG cricket match he attended. A cup containing urine was alleged to be involved).
Undaunted, I inquire about the rather large, yet ornate, rapier thrust into the mahogany bar top.
"The Peter Louis paper knife", the blunt reply.
(Taylor was alleged to be the mastermind behind the sacking of coach Peter Louis at North Sydney)
Chinks in the armour.
Not earth shattering but a little disconcerting nonetheless.
As we make our way across the hall, the massive "Victa Magpie Mirror" catches my eye.
It's a floor to ceiling masterpiece and has no doubt seen the many faces of Taylor himself.
It was quite haunting, actually.
The last memorial to Taylor's career as a player were the "Cumberland Couches", made of the finest leather and oiled religiously to give a silky smooth, almost slippery effect when one sits on them.
"You could squirm in those rather easily", I mused.
Leaving the "Bear Hall" behind, the guide summoned us to the final room.
"Welcome to the tabernacle of the poisoned chalice".
A room of Spartan appearance with what looked like a throne as it's centerpiece.
Nothing else was in the room with the exception of a wooden table, covered in a white cloth marred by a red circular stain.
The room was dark, musty and cold and I felt a shiver down my spine.
The tour concluded with these chilling words from the guide.
"Jason drank from the chalice in a druid style ceremony and took it with him, never to return to this room. His fate is doomed".
Apparently, the chalice should have remained in the museum as a gift to those who sought wisdom but had previously failed in their quest.
A sip from the jewelled vessel is said to have cast a protectorate of sorts around those who held it in their hands but only whilst within the walls of the museum.
It is missing however, legend says the only one who can break this spell, is the man who took it in the first place.
Only when he returns to the museum, chalice in hand, will his despair be relieved.
Take it home please, Jason.
Take it home.