A brave face
A warmer and dryer Bill Arthur feels for England as they come face-to-face with the Aussies again.
Last Updated: 02/11/10 12:48pm
The Four Nations show has moved on to Auckland now, where at least the sun is shining.
I'm still trying to get clothes dry after the tropical downpour that hit the AAMI Park Stadium in Melbourne in the second half of the Australia-England game. The rain was relentless and only added to the misery of the England supporters, many of who found themselves sitting in the uncovered areas of the brand new ground. And there are quite a few of those.
The stadium designers are very proud of the self-supporting geodesic dome roof at the ground and it is striking. There are no beams or pillars to block your view and the roof just links elegantly all the way round. There are LED lights on the metalwork so that when Melbourne Storm are playing at home they turn the roof purple and then they change the colour when the football team are at home. Great, but one thing you expect from a roof is some cover and there's a shortage of that if you're sitting in the front 10 or so rows.
A work of fiction
And that was where quite a few of the England fans were sitting as they watched their side go down in a game refereed by Jeffrey Archer. Well, it might as well have been. One or two decisions looked like works of fiction to me.
Anyway, Eden Park in Auckland is the next venue for the Four Nations and that famous old ground, bastion of the All Blacks, has been redeveloped in preparation for the rugby union World Cup which takes place in New Zealand next year. There's still a lot of work going on to improve access to the ground.and it doesn't look as though it'll be finished by the weekend.
But the England players joined the Kiwis, Australia and Papua New Guinea at a big schools open day at the stadium and hundreds of youngsters came down to meet their heroes. The biggest cheer was for Benji Marshall, Darren Lockyer was mobbed by autograph hunters and there was more proof of Sam Burgess's popularity over here as he had dozens of kids wanting to have their photos taken with him. And big Sam duly obliged.
In fact all the English players did well because, after the disappointment of having their Four Nations hopes ended by the Aussies, the last thing they probably wanted to do was to come face-to-face with them and the Kiwis again. Plus hundreds of over-excited, noisy school kids.
But James Graham and his team-mates patiently signed autographs, scribbled on shirts and posed for photos as well as joining in with tag rugby games all over the Eden Park pitch.
Then a brave local photographer got all four teams and the children together for mass photo. He managed to get everyone looking in the same direction at the same time - and that was just the players. But then he shouted "big smile" and the England lads struggled with that. They'll only be smiling when they get some points on the Four Nations board this weekend.