Four Nations Diary with Julie Stott – Week 1

There was an audible gasp of relief from the English media at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium after England’s win.

Reporters and fans alike are used to having their nerves shredded by the national team and this was certainly no different.

But Steve McNamara and his team seemed relaxed enough afterwards to admit they were’t great but that the best is yet to come.

Let’s hope so. England certainly can’t play against Australia like they did in the 32-26 victory over Samoa.

On a lesser note, it’s a sad reflection on the state of international rugby that there wasn’t an official programme for the double header.

Aussie fans are used to heavyweight tomes for the State of Origin and Grand Final, even though they probably know all there is to know about their own players.

But, any fans wanting to read about the England and Samoa players, as well as the Aussies and Kiwis, were left disappointed.

A poster style sheet of paper with team line-ups and only a brief summary of each country was all fans got.

The double header in Brisbane all seemed a long time after we arrived at our hotel in the city at 2am last Wednesday after a long flight and longing for bed.

That blissful thought, however, was put on hold when the taxi driver realised he couldn’t open the boot to get our cases out.

Half an hour later, thanks to help from hotel staff and a lot of brute force, the boot was finally popped.

The taxi driver was very apologetic but not sorry enough that he offered to refund our $40 fee.

Oh well, a long night’s sleep was bound to make everything seem comical rather than simply tiresome. Fat chance.

Just before 6.30am I’m out walking thanks to the joys of jet lag and couldn’t believe the fit zone I’d suddenly found myself in.

Even at that time, there were hundreds of Aussies out walking, running or cycling. Some were clearly going to work, but the majority simply looked to be fitness fanatics.

Mind you, given the fantastic riverside boardwalks and cycle paths, even the laziest among us might be tempted to give fitness a whirl.

All the English press people out here have been suffering badly with jet lag, which I know won’t win us any sympathy back home.

But it’s amazing how you can go to bed absolutely shattered and wake up an hour or so later completely wide up.

The sooner the body clock gets used to Down Under time the better. Thankfully this isn’t a problem the England squad have had.

Quite rightly, they all flew business class so got far better quality sleep on the flights over.

Stefan Ratchford admitted most of them had been waking early for the first few days but praised the conditioning staff for keeping the disruption to a minimum.

Buying the Aussie papers and seeing the extensive rugby league coverage is enough to make England fans weep.

My paper, the Daily Star, always give rugby league extensive coverage, believing quite rightly that it’s essential reading for fans.

The Daily Mirror and the Sun have also got their reporters out here in Australia but none of us get the space that Aussie media get.

It’s a joy to see the coverage, although saying that, there seems little publicity in and around Brisbane for the weekend’s double header.

Thursday takes us to the International Player of the Year lunch where Sam Burgess picks up the award.

Sam is as refreshingly open and chatty as always and gives us a lengthy interview about his future and regrets about leaving Sydney.

But rugby league’s very own superstar is badly let down by the quality of the award ceremony.

A complete botch up with the presentation leaves no doubt that he’s won it before it’s even announced.

The organisers also failed to mention the other nine on the short-list and a day later England’s players didn’t even realise some of them were on it.

For the record, Daryl Clark, Zak Hardaker, Chris Hill, Jamie Peacock and James Roby were the Super League nominees. Burgess and James Graham were both included in the NRL five-man list. How’s that for English pride – seven out of the 10 nominees being ours?

Later that day, England coach Steve McNamara invites the English press who are out here to meet him for a get-together. He even gets the beers in (that’s for us, not him – he stayed on the soft drinks)

It was good to have a friendly chat and hopefully it’s the sign of better relations than we had in last year’s World Cup.

It was no secret that McNamara publicly handled the off-field disciplinary matters poorly. But he seems far more relaxed this time – and hopefully there won’t be any bad boy behaviour for him to deal with this time.

 

We will see. But the good news is that England go into the second week with a vital win – however scrappy.

Picture: Photosport/SWPix

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