Michael Burgess: Take note Australasia - this is how you host a league game

By Michael Burgess in Leeds

The John Smith's Stadium, Huddersfield during the Kiwis-England clash. Photosport
The John Smith's Stadium, Huddersfield during the Kiwis-England clash. Photosport

Last Sunday's match between the New Zealand and England was a wonderful experience.

Not only was it a cracking game, but it was played in one of the true heartlands of rugby league.

The test was a bit like stepping back in time, a reminder of what we have may have lost in the southern hemisphere.

In the rush to make the stadium experience more 'entertaining' and 'modern', match day in Australasia has lost a bit of soul.

Sunday was the real thing. A full house, packed into a boutique stadium in Huddersfield.

Aside from during the video referee referrals, there is none of the incessant music that is a blight on the live sport experience in Australia and New Zealand, where rock or pop snippets are forced into every break in play.

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Instead the drama of the match was allowed to build naturally, making for some wonderful drama and tension over the last 15 minutes.

Local fans were passionately behind their team, riding the referee for every call made against the men in white.

There was a crescendo of noise throughout the 80 minutes, as the supporters were fully focused on the action unfolding out on the field.

Even the media and coaches areas were different. Instead of being secluded inside an air conditioned box, the Kiwis coaches David Kidwell and Justin Morgan were sat among the fans, at the top of the grandstand.

The media area was also in the main grandstand, with supporters sat next to the men tapping away for the local and international broad sheets.

There was also a sense of sportsmanship. While the local fans were passionately behind their team, they also applauded skillful or courageous play by the Kiwis, revealing a genuine affection for the game.

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And there was some unique, only in England touches. One of the main sponsors was a mushy peas company, and the pre-match entertainment included a 150 strong choir with their own version of Pulp's `Common People'.

A local celebrity sang Jerusalem - which has become the unofficial league anthem here and at halftime fans dined on hearty servings of 'chips and cheese'.

Autex - Proud sponsors of New Zealand rugby league since 1981

- NZ Herald

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