The day that everyone had been waiting for. The double-header opening ceremony, featuring England against Australia and Wales versus Italy at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
My day started with a quick scan of any overnight news, and double checking my previews for the Sunday matches. Went down for some breakfast, bumped in to Trevor Baxter from the Daily Mirror, and then got the 11.15 train from Coryton which got me in to Cardiff shortly after 11.30.
There were a couple of Aussies waiting at Coryton station, including one with a most annoying laugh, and a couple of young lads from Leeds, who were mistaken to be Rhinos fans by some other rugby league fans waiting, turns out they were Hunslet supporters.
Got to Gate 5 at the Millennium Stadium to find a queue of journalists waiting to get in. Shared travelling stories with Nathan Lawrenson, a contributor to this website and also the Metro newspaper, and the Daily Star’s Julie Stott.
Eventually got through the bag search and the sign-in, before walking what seemed like an age underneath the stadium to get the press room, which was already buzzing with working media.
Eager to get out to the press bench, myself and Nathan headed straight for our seats, and admired the facilities available to us, a far cry from some other grounds. A good view too (see picture below), as we watched all the preparation for the opening ceremony around us.
A bit of prep and some social media was done, and it was on Twitter that we spotted a picture from the official Wests Tigers account of the press room, featuring Rugby League World editor Gareth Walker tucking in to some grub. So it was back down to the press room for the chicken balti on offer, before the action began.
It was an afternoon of multi-tasking. Updating the live scores on our site, tweeting updates, writing a match report and also helping out with co-commentary on Radio General, the Warrington based station which kindly allows us to use its facilities for our podcasts, with Adrian Jackson.
Prior to the match there were some issues with the wi-fi connection. Fortunately, that’s nothing new at rugby league grounds, and as such, I was able to turn to my back-up option – tethering the 3G connection from my iPhone.
On went the headphones for the match, and a busy one it was. England stood up relatively well, better than expected, but never really looked like winning once Australia took the lead.
We were situated on the first tier, in the middle of a block, and there was a walk way next to us. Incredibly, at the end of the game, an England fan had a pop at Nathan, sat next to me. I was commentating on radio so didn’t catch the whole gist, but it seems that the England fan said something along the lines of “I hope you put in your report that England only lost because of the awful referee”, to which my colleague simply smiled. The fan walked off and then returned irate, demanding who Nathan wrote for and asking whether he knows anything about rugby league, while trying to force his way over the metal bar and both myself and Adrian who were between him and Nathan.
Due to the closeness of the two games, I couldn’t make it down to the post-match press conference for the England game, so Nathan went down for Love Rugby League. There wasn’t many left in the press box by the time Wales and Italy started, but we were there.
A competitive game, with Italy running away at the end for a deserved win. My main gripe throughout the day had been that the clock disappears off the big screen when tries are scored, probably the main time you want to see the time when doing live scores and commentary. I discovered, three minutes from the end of the Wales game, that there was a digital clock, similar to those used in Super League, to my far left.
Match report written, and it was time to pack up and head back to the media centre. Our regular feature writer and the Daily Mail’s rugby league man was working on his match report on the England game for League Express, while I headed off to the press conference.
After seemingly waiting an age, first Iestyn Harris and Craig Kopczak and then Carlo Napolitano, Anthony Minichiello and Josh Mantellato were presented to the press, with Australian journalist Steve Mascord leading the questioning.
Double checked with World Cup communications guru Tom Coates that accreditation for New Zealand and Samoa hadn’t yet been sent out, and then left the ground to torrential rain. With the roof on, it was a bit of a strange atmosphere in the ground. Almost felt like an indoor arena that someone had put a strip of grass down in.
Back to the hotel it was, thankful that I hadn’t tried to combine the long day of work with a drive either to or from home. Some last few amendments, adding a few pictures and some more social media updates, and then it was an early night. Thought I might have to do my Monday game preview before bed, but the squads still hadn’t come through, so that will be one while we wait for the game at Warrington to start.
As I walked through the hotel, a group of Wigan fans spotted my badge and asked me what I thought of the games. It was a decent day, attended by 45,000, and all in all, it was a positive start for the World Cup. May it continue.