Going down a storm!
Bill Arthur blogs on the Four Nations final build-up, a turbulent flight for England and a new Giants calendar.
Last Updated: 12/11/10 11:24am
So England did make it to Brisbane - venue of the Four Nations final - after all!
At least, some of the squad did, although not to gatecrash the Australia versus New Zealand showdown. It was only a brief and unscheduled visit to Queensland for the England players after ferocious storms swept across New South Wales earlier this week.
Tony Clubb, four-try star of the win over PNG, was among the players flying from Auckland to Sydney after England's final game in the tournament.
They were supposed to be carrying on back to the UK but they flew in as a storm was raging around the area with thunder and lightning and hailstones the size of golf balls.
It wasn't an experience for the faint-hearted as the plane bumped through turbulence and an electrical storm. Like many other flights they were refused permission to land and were rerouted to less tempestuous areas of the country.
Which was why Tony Clubb and co ended up overnight in Brisbane before they were able to get their journey back on track. And even then those players hoping to make it home to Manchester ended up in Birmingham. It was typical of the ill fortune that dogged the England team on their tour down under.
So the stage is left to Australia and New Zealand with the Kangaroos strong favourites after the way they brought the Kiwis down a peg or two last weekend. It depends how Stephen Kearney's men respond to that defeat.
Lockyer's back, Slater's back but there's no Petero Civoniceva for Australia after he basically deselected himself. Australia coach Tim Sheens stunned a press conference at the Suncorp Stadium this week when he revealed that the big Fijian-born prop had actually told his coach not to select him because he didn't think he was worthy of his place in the Green and Gold's line up.
It takes a brave man to do that and Petero, with 44 caps Australia's most capped forward, won new admirers for his humility and the sacrifice he's made for the good of the team. Or he might have sensed that there are young guns ready to step into his shoes and that it was only a matter of time before he lost his place. Either way, this was a chance to be part of another trophy-winning Australian side - and big Petero decided that he wasn't up to the job.
Then there's the speculation that Darren Lockyer could be making his final international appearance on home soil in the match on Saturday.
Next year all the Aussie's games are overseas with the Anzac test in Christchurch and the Four Nations back in Europe. Lockyer has dismissed talk of retirement and said he wants to add to his tally of international caps next year - this weekend will be his 54th cap. And surely if he's going to bow out of international rugby league he'd want to do it on home soil, not on a wet and windy night in Leeds or Wigan? Not that there's anything wrong with a wet and windy night in Leeds, it's just that Darren Lockyer would probably want to bring the curtain down on his international career on home soil.
Not surprisingly Lockyer's team are favourites to retain their Four Nations title which means the Kiwis revert to their underdog status.
I thought that would mean that the English fans who are still out here would be supporting New Zealand in the final. Not so, if the mood of the fans I've bumped into this week is anything to go by.
They're still angered and disgusted by the behaviour of Kiwi supporters at Eden Park in Auckland last weekend who hurled bottles indiscriminately at other fans. Some of them had to shelter at the back of the stand, others just left the ground. And they're not inclined to cheer the Kiwis on this weekend.
Finally here's one for the ladies, courtesy of the Huddersfield Giants once again.
Last year the Giants bared all in a calendar sold in aid of the Laura Crane Trust, which is the only charity in the UK dedicated to funding research into cancer in 13 to 24 year olds. And that, sadly, is the most common form of non-accidental death in young people in the UK.
Well for this year's calendar the Giants players have kept their kit on although it's not exactly their kit.
Photographer Mark Hemingway has gone with a movie theme for the calendar so the players, including their England Four Nations representatives, appear in a variety of poses.
There's Luke Robinson and the Trust's patron Catherine Tate doing the Top Gun look and Leroy Cudjoe and Eorl Crabtree in a Men in Black pose. And then there's one of big Eorl in a skirt - but you'll have to buy the calendar to see that one!