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From Sydney to Gillette Stadium
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For some people, football season means tailgate parties and games at Gillette Stadium. For others, it's Sunday afternoons spent on the sofa with friends and family. But for Kerry Murray and his sons Michael and Nicholas, it has a different look entirely. As Patriots fans living in Australia, they anticipate spring rather than fall and watch games live in the middle of the night as opposed to mid-afternoon.
"For 1 o'clock games, in Sydney the time will be 3 a.m. and then when daylight savings kicks in, it goes to about 5 o'clock in the morning," Nicholas explained. "It makes for a pretty long day."
For the regular season finale against the Bills, though, the trio decided to trade their early morning wake up call for a bit of jetlag and the full Gillette Stadium experience. They arrived stateside just a couple days before the game, with Kerry and Michael traveling some 10,000 miles and 20 hours from Sydney. Nicholas made the relatively short six-hour journey from London to meet his father and brother for a three-week vacation along the East Coast that includes at least two planned stops in Foxborough, for the Bills game and the divisional playoff matchup on January 10. If the team advances to the AFC Championship Game on January 18, they promise to be in the stands for that one too, before making the long return trip home.
"We started saving the last time we were here," Kerry joked, referencing a similar vacation they took two years ago. "It's worth it though."
Despite being part of a small number of NFL fans in Australia – popular sports there include rugby, cricket and Australian Rules football – the Murrays aren't alone in their dedication to the Patriots. Russell Corr, his partner Anita Murray (unrelated to Kerry and his clan) and their 11-year-old son Liam, as well as Worcester native Claire Meakins and her Australian husband Terry also planned their summer vacation around the team's schedule. Of course, for Claire and Terry, the trip was a chance to visit family in New England, but for the Corrs and Murrays, the Patriots were the main attraction.
"No family or anything over here – just the Pats," Nicholas said while at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. "This is it. This is us."
The Corrs echoed that sentiment.
"All our vacations to America are because of the Pats," explained Russell, who is originally from the U.K. but has lived in Australia for two decades. "I've been to America four times now and every time it's Boston. [Game day] is always the highlight of the trip."
In all three families, who did not know each other prior to the Patriots-Bills game, the passion for American football is something which has been passed down through the generations. Russell's father was an NFL fan and now his son Liam is too; Claire grew up supporting her local teams, got Terry hooked and had three Patriots-loving children; as for Kerry, a physical education teacher, it was the team's coaching and management philosophy that piqued his interest about 15 years ago. It didn't take long for his sons to follow suit.
"It's very inspiring," Kerry said of the team's success.
"When I come back in a second life I want to be a water boy for the Patriots," he continued, with a laugh. "Somebody's got to do it, haven't they?"
For the next couple weeks, though, Kerry, Michael and Nicholas are just happy to have the chance to watch the Patriots play in person, surrounded by thousands of fellow fans, rather than at home in Sydney on their own.
"I suppose one feels like the child who waits for Santa each year knowing that he will never get that expensive present," Kerry reflected, "and behold, by some miracle he gets it. That's what [it means] to me."