A damaging day
Bill Arthur was saddened as the bad behaviour of louts ruined rugby league's big day at Eden Park.
Last Updated: 08/11/10 9:02am
England are heading for home with the win they so badly wanted in the bag.
OK, the victory over PNG wasn't as emphatic as those posted by New Zealand and Australia but it came at the end of a tough few weeks for Steve McNamara's men.
The injury problems that have hampered the squad continued right through to the last game. Sam Burgess picked up a worrying shoulder injury, Kevin Brown had to leave the field with concussion and, after scoring two first-half tries, Luke Robinson joined the casualty list.
It turns out Luke has dislocated his elbow and that'll need repairing, as will a long-standing shoulder problem. He's due to have surgery when he gets home and there's the prospect of him walking down the aisle later this month with his shoulder strapped and his other arm in a sling.
He might just struggle to get that ring on the finger of his very patient fiancee Laura Towler, but I imagine there'll be more pain to come if he doesn't get it sorted on November 20.
At least England got the win at the weekend. After their emphatic defeat by Australia the poor Kiwis were left to pick up the pieces - and the bottles and the debris that littered the Eden Park sidelines and the surrounding area.
It was not a good night for New Zealand rugby league on and off the pitch. Stephen Kearney's men have a chance to put things straight next weekend in Brisbane but it's going to take some time to repair the damage done to the game's image here in Auckland.
The local media has been scathing about the behaviour of some Kiwi supporters on Saturday night. Bottles were chucked not just onto the pitch but at fellow spectators too and an English supporter was among those hit, apparently by a plastic shot glass. Another of those whistled past the head of the Australian captain Cameron Smith.
The drunks were fighting among themselves and making life unpleasant for those around them to the extent that genuine supporters were heading for the exits.
There's been a furious reaction from New Zealand rugby league administrators and supporters. Sir Peter Leitch, aka the Mad Butcher and a NZRL stalwart, has been on local radio berating the so-called fans and also the stadium management for letting the situation get so out of hand.
Sir Peter said: "I will not sit back and let all league fans be painted as louts. The condemnation of the behaviour began on Saturday night at Eden Park, and it was led by the vast majority of ordinary fans who were sickened by what they saw. What occurred can't be defended. It was not the fault of rugby league or its many genuine supporters."
There was supposed to a drinks ban around the ground but there were shops nearby selling beer by the case and it seems that stadium bars then kept selling ale to already drunk fans.
Eden Park is in a very smart neighbourhood and the local residents association has branded the stadium management as "incompetent". They, in turn, are trying to find the timber to build a stable door while the horse is charging around the local streets dropping piles of manure all over the place.
The Eden Park residents must be really looking forward to having the union World Cup on their doorstep next year. The stadium management have said they'll learn from the weekend's problems and tighter controls will be in place for the RWC.
There goes that horse again. It doesn't matter if it dumps it on NZRL's back yard as long as everything's ok for next year. Saturday night was supposed to be a trial run for the World Cup, so why weren't those controls in place for the Four Nations game? You have to wonder.
The first game of league back at Eden Park after 22 years will be remembered for the brainless behaviour of some tanked-up supporters.
Jim Doyle, the Scottish-born chief executive of NZRL looked devastated as he watched the bottles raining down on his guests and on the genuine league fans, some of whom had travelled from the other side of the world to be part of the event.
They'll leave New Zealand with memories of a beautiful country and friendly, hospitable people - apart from the Eden Park idiots who conspired to ruin the game's big day.