World Cup Diary: Days 14 and 15

It’s perhaps a reflection of my World Cup weekend that I’ve had to write two days of this diary in one go.

After covering 14 games in 16 days, Sunday was the day that it finally got to me.

Getting home at 1am on Friday night probably wasn’t the ideal starting point for the weekend, especially given I was on the road to Hull by 9.

Metro journalist and occasional Love Rugby League contributor Nathan Lawrenson kept me company on the journey, and we got to the KC Stadium relatively early.

Must mention the food, which was a splendid steak pie, with roast potatoes, mushy peas and gravy.

There was a fairly sombre atmosphere in the press room, as the news of Steve Prescott’s death filtered through. It meant a lot of non-World Cup related work was quickly being done ahead of the game.

As kick-off neared, it was time to make the trek up to the press box. Someone counted the steps, and I believe it’s comfortably over 120, to get to the press box, which is situated at the very back of the west stand.

I quite like being high up, maybe not that high, as it gives you an overall view of the pitch, and the ability to really track individual players and view the set moves that each team plays.

There were plenty of Fiji fans and flags around us, and the game itself was a close contest for the first half. Some in the press box were even predicting a Fiji win around the half hour mark, but of course Steve McNamara’s men prevailed in the end.

McNamara paid tribute to Prescott in his post-match press conference, which for once went without incident.

I had time to meet up with Sarah from the Kingstone Press team, before hitting the road. It was a nightmare getting away from the stadium, despite leaving a good 90 minutes after the final hooter, but eventually got back, and straight to a friend’s birthday meal.

Sunday turned in to my worst day of the World Cup. Already running a bit late, I was held up at a petrol station and then in traffic. With no car parking at Halifax, I managed to get in to the multi-storey, despite not having any cash on me, thanks to the kind generosity of the car park manager, who restored my faith in humanity.

It appears no one at Halifax realised that the media like to cover the World Cup. They had made no attempt to add extra provision to their press bench, which has one solitary row of about 10 desks. There can be no excuses, given that at the Northern Rail Cup finals day, there was the same issue. On that day, I did my work with my laptop on my knee.

Unfortunately, even that was a pipe dream on Sunday, given that the internet connection and even a 3G signal were non-existent. It meant for the first game of the tournament, we couldn’t give blow by blow updates via our website and Twitter.

Even a return to the press room wasn’t possible as we’d been shown the most bizarre route to the stand, which involved going through a big metal gate at the side of one of the stands.

I made the decision that I was going to watch the game in the press room in the second half, thinking that the internet connection would be better, and managed to find my way down there at half time.

Still the internet didn’t work, until a technician came and gave me access to an alternative network, but then there was no way to watch the game. It wasn’t available on the TV in the press room, and a stream of the game was jumpy at best on Premier Sports.

But knowing I would have to fight my way back to my seat upstairs, and wouldn’t have the ability to both hold my notes and my laptop at the same time, I stayed in the press room and basically reported on the game second half based on the occasional clips I saw on the stream, radio commentary from BBC and then the odd Twitter update.

Far from ideal, and it was turning in to one of those days. Fortunately, Italy coach Carlo Napolitano brightened it up with probably the best press conference of the tournament, where he made some great comments about a few things, including a possible Super League franchise in the country.

A rush back to the car park followed – it shut at 7pm, and I must have got there at 6.59 after a bit of a run – and then the drive home.

It’s been great to be immersed in the World Cup, and to work on so many games, but I must admit, it will be nice to have a few days back to normal this week!

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