Not even Melbourne can produce subzero temperatures, sleet and North Sea mists on game day. But this is the World Cup Challenge – the Northern England challenge.
And most Australian teams, through indifference (the NRL premier assumes it is the world champion) and because their English opponents treat it as an international and as validation of their Super League, have failed it.
Now, through the mist, comes the thunderous booing from the hordes. It is the hooded Rhino fans with the stench of pie and mushy peas on their breath. Primed with Yorkshire ale they suddenly stop braying and start singing the Storm to its grave.
The Storm has spent its entire existence weathering alien environments. Five months ago it was sweating in the humidity of Western Sydney and blinded by the glare of all that blue and yellow.
Here in Leeds, however, there is a further challenge, the most frightening of all: Keith Senior.
He’s a mean looking man even in a sport where oversized deltoids, no neck, and no fear are necessary. Like the AFL’s Barry Hall (who looks as if he wants to knock you out AND does), Senior is big and bald. The lack of hair draws your gaze to his. Small, close-set eyes but focused, intense and LUMINOUS. We’ve all seen that look on the playing field, in the pub or boardroom filled with the ambitious.
The ABC doco Primal Instincts examined a theory that THAT look can be the result of a lack of serotonin, a hormone that helps regulate anger. It can be an inherited disorder so keep Keith Jnr Senior locked down in the playpen.
Martin Amis, describing one of his scary working class characters, could easily be talking about our Keith: “Keith was a bad guy. Keith was a very bad guy. You might even say that he was the very worst guy. But not the worst, not the very worst ever. There were worse guys. Keith no longer swore at his wife or slammed her up against the wall with any conviction. Keith didn’t look like a murderer. He looked like a murderer’s dog. Keith had often been told, by various magistrates, girlfriends and probation officers, that he had a ‘poor character’.
And poor taste. The English Sun newspaper calling Keith a ‘cheating rug rat’, revealed he had an affair in 2008 with a ‘busty Oz blond beauty’ called Charmyne (“He’s a 10 between the sheets and has a great body for an old guy” – I can imagine Keith’s eyes narrowing over that last bit) He was engaged at the time to an English blond topless model who he had left his wife for.
As it turned out Keith didn’t pose a threat to the Storm at all. In fact he probably won them the match. In the 60th minute with the scores deadlocked he gave referee Richard Silverwood one of his piercing stares and an awful earful about not penalising the Storm for slowing the play-the-ball. Cameron Smith converted the resulting penalty and Melbourne never relinquished the lead.
So the Storm survived the wrath of Keith. But there are a few individuals praying Keith takes his serotonin. And soon.
Silverwood’s existence is under a cloud after Keith publically stated: “I’m sick of him. He’s arrogant. He likes to be the centre of attention”.
And will Brett Finch make it back home after he insanely (I mean doesn’t he realise he could die?) called Keith a poor loser?
There were also some fans of opposing Super League teams who laughed online at Keith over his criticism of Melbourne’s tactics saying Leeds play the same way. I hope, for their sake, they can’t be traced.
If Keith reads any part of this article, it will be my last.
Anyway, the Englishness of it all was symbolised by the WCC trophy – it was just like the one being held aloft by Wayne Rooney at Wembley a few hours earlier with the annoying ribbons dangling from the handles.
Finally why do Gillette bother to sponsor events like the WCC and pay sporting superstars (and Michael Clarke) a fortune to advertise their Fusion razor? They have a monopoly on mens shaving products. You go into the supermarket and find there is no other brand of razor in existence. The only competition is from their own ancient Sensor Excel twin blade I use and on whose packet they implore you to buy the five blade Fusion.