A storm brewing
Bill Arthur blogs on the weather, playing down-under and the pioneers of New Zealand rugby league.
Last Updated: 22/10/10 9:03am
The first sightings of England fans have been made here in Wellington and they've obviously not checked out the local weather reports before setting off. It's not exactly shorts and t-shirt weather here, the wind howling between the high rise office blocks that crowd down to the waterfront and the occasional rain shower driving in off the bay.
The Kiwis seem to be as preoccupied about the weather as we English are and think that stormy conditions could favour the England side on Saturday. Coach Steve McNamara pointed out at the most recent press conference that his players are used to all sorts of conditions as we play in the summer, which means starting when the snow is on the ground. He painted a very bleak picture of a February afternoon at Odsal which was so evocative it made me shiver.
Which is why the thought of a World Club Challenge game in Sydney in February is so appealing. That's what the Aussies would like to see. According to the Sydney press the NRL champions St George-Illawarra have approached the RFL about switching the game with Super League champions Wigan from England to Australia at the end of February. Tough choice - the Reebok in chilly Bolton on February 27th or the ANZ Stadium or the Sydney Football Stadium on a balmy late summer evening down under. I know which I'd prefer.
The last time the game was played over here was 1994 when a star studded Wigan side including the likes of Clarke, Farrell, Edwards and Offiah beat the mighty Brisbane Broncos 20-14 in front of a crowd of 54,000 at the ANZ Stadium. They reckon they could get the same sort of crowd again if the Warriors came to town, such is the aura of the Wigan name in these parts.
But that 1994 game was played out of season on June 1st and that's why the Aussies seem unlikely to get their way; the 2011 Super League campaign would be three weeks old by the end of February and it would mean major rescheduling to allow Wigan enough time in Australia to prepare for the game against the Dragons. It's a very pleasant thought though.
Back to Wellington and nice touch from the England management as they took time out to visit the grave of Albert Baskerville, at the cemetery in Karori just outside the city. Baskerville was the pioneering Kiwi who led the 1907 All Golds rugby league tour to England, Wales, Australia and Ceylon. It was a bold move as Baskerville was an All Black rugby union player at the time. He was only 24 when he organised the tour which lasted 10 months and involved 49 matches.
Baskerville was banned by the NZ rugby union but he didn't live to enjoy his notoriety; he died of pneumonia in Brisbane aged 25. But the game owes a big debt to him and the likes of Dally Messenger and Hercules "Bumper" Wright who joined him on the venture. Which was why Steve McNamara found himself at a graveside in Wellington.