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only of favourite and Dally M winner Ben Barba, but key Storm troopers Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk, who were also on the shortlist.

That’s all grist to the mill as far as Leeds Chief Executive Gary Hetherington is concerned. “I’m hoping it will be a repeat of last year’s sell-out against Manly, which was one of Headingley Carnegie’s great nights,” he says. “It was like when Wigan played the Sea Eagles at Central Park in 1987, one of those occasions when people like to look back and say ‘I was there.’

“This time it’s going to be even more patriotic especially with the pre-match entertainment we’ve got lined up. We are billing it as England versus Australia and I’m very conscious that we are representing Super League as well as the country.

“The recent criticisms in the Aussie media give added interest and hopefully everyone in this country will want us to be

“There is agreement in principle to expand the overall concept into

Super League v the NRL...”

successful. We are asking everyone to be a ‘Rhino for the night’. We’re offering fans who wouldn’t normally be in there, the unique experience of watching a game among the white hot atmosphere of the renowned South Stand. There is a perception that the game is already a sellout, but don’t assume you have to watch it on television. Tickets are still available from ourselves or the RFL.”

Hetherington is on the cross-hemisphere working committee looking at the whole World Club concept and how it might be extended to encompass more teams in what is a highly marketable global product.

“There will be a World Club champion crowned every year from the respective Grand Final winners; that will not change” he confirms. “We will not dilute the best against the best. But there is agreement in principle to bolt it on to include the top three teams and expand the overall concept into Super League v the NRL. February is the right time to play these games, it has been agreed, not October.

“We are looking at playing in alternate hemispheres. That might not be uniform we wouldn’t expect, say, England to play a Four Nations in November over there and then ask players to go back three months later - but it can work every other season.

“We’re trying to construct a six-year international fixture schedule with the WCC factored in. It could start as early as 2014 and we hope to have the logistics sorted and announced by the time Melbourne arrive.”

The fans await: Headingley-Carnegie is prepared for the 2012 Festive Challenge

Viva Sparking Marky!

“Happy New Year folks! I wish you your fair share of good times, padded with optimism in between x.” That was my first Facebook status of 2013 and I had no idea how quickly it would ring true for me.

First thing on 1 January I had to deal with Evangeline’s epic nose bleed. Then we had lots of lovely friends round, the TV broke and I booked a long weekend in Center Parcs. See, good times, with tribulations intermittently.

The nose bleed was the latest in a series of symptoms for E over Christmas. It began with a temperature of 102 on Christmas Eve. She complained of a headache and was sick. Jason was at training for the final run through before the not-so-Festive Challenge and I was at home, wrapping the last Amazon deliveries and researching warning signs for meningitis.

We had a further few days of her being hot and tired and eating only a prawn cocktail on Christmas Day. It turned into a cold and cough and the poor thing slept through half of the holidays. I am so sad to have to hand her back to the education system, I’ll never understand those who can't wait to get their kids back to school.

We do however have her birthday party to plan. Again. I did have one event booked only to discover that Jason would be off to training camp in Portugal on the day that marks her fifth birthday. So we’ve now booked Sparking Marky, one of the region’s most sought after entertainers. He’s not cheap but you get what you pay for. It’s only fair since Jason’s flying off to apply his nose to the grindstone that is Brown’s Sports and Leisure Club, Vilamoura.

A story about the personal life of Paul Wood was brought to my attention on New Year’s Eve. I read it on the Sunwebsite. I refer myself to one of last year’s resolutions; to try harder to mind my own business. I don’t know any of the people involved so it would be wrong of me to write or say anything about it. I never made any promises about the use of telepathy though, so if you try hard you may be able to imagine what I think.

I’ve written birthdays, school holidays, fixtures and the like on the new calendar so that I could find an appropriate weekend for us to have a few days away. It is becoming particularly difficult now Evangeline also has prior engagements. I am still Mrs Available. You won’t find me causing any bother with my social diary. “Can’t go that week as it’s before the World Club Challenge; can’t go that week because it’s the ballet show; can’t go that week because it’s just before Easter and that’s busy enough as it is; can’t go that week as we have tickets for DisneyonIce...”

We’ve settled on mid-March. Jason joins us after the Wigan match and we will watch it on the iPad. Sorted. Unless Sky changes the date, in which case I will cry. They call Center Parcs ‘a posh Butlins’ in a scornful way. I don’t get it. What’s not to like about a posh Butlins?

Today has also reinforced my New Year greeting: Did a voice-over job - Good. Found out TV is not covered by warranty - Bad. Wrote my Forty-20column - Good.

You get another month’s grace before I start banging on about healthy eating and exercise. I don’t do that in January as there are still peanuts, pies and slabs of cheese to clear. We’ll have a couple of rounds of league under our belts then too. I remember it vaguely, five drives and a kick, a try, a conversion, a chargedown followed by ‘back to one’... What? Oh.*

As for resolutions, my meaningful one is to be more attentive when Evangeline is at home. I miss her when she’s not and overlook her too often when she is. I have also resolved to learn to cook roast potatoes. Again. (*burnsrulebook)

January 2013 Forty-20 19

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