Australians desperately hoping Peacock sticks to Vegas pledge

Jamie Peacock
Jamie Peacock
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It is one of the burning questions everyone has been asking ever since the conclusion of an epic World Club Challenge.

If Leeds Rhinos’ Jamie Peacock is still performing with the same high calibre at the end of the season as he did against Melbourne Storm a week ago, surely he must reconsider retiring from the international game and return for England in the World Cup this autumn?

As he prepares for tonight’s return to Super League action at St Helens, he laughs to himself as if knowing this line of enquiry was on its way.

In fact, the 35-year-old has done more than that; he has his response sorted, no-nonsense and as efficient as ever, just like one of those surging carries that tore into the NRL champions.

“Who knows but I’ve purposely booked all my holidays to get ready for that,” Peacock tells the Yorkshire Post.

“I knew it could happen if I am playing well but it’s a ‘no’.

“I’m off to Vegas for a bit and then I purposely booked a holiday to Spain with all the family, too.

“And, anyway, who knows what condition I’m going to be in in 30 weeks’ time. I feel great now but I’ll be nearly 36 then.

“Maybe, by having a full pre-season for the first time in ages, it might be that it leaves me in good stead come the end of the year but that door is firmly shut.”

It is a shame as, in the nicest possible way, the Australians simply do not like Peacock.

As demonstrated yet again as he continually blasted away at the Storm, with his striding gait and capacity to offload under all sorts of pressure, he creates problems for them perhaps more so than any other English forward in recent times.

His retirement last June was, back then, deemed the right timing given the number of quality props available to and emerging for England coach Steve McNamara.

Yet his statistics at Headingley a week ago show he was the dominant player on the pitch.

He made a total of 185m which was more than anyone else on the field with no other Leeds forward, aside from hooker Rob Burrow, reaching three figures.

Peacock’s 33 carries were almost twice as many as most forwards on either side and his 32 tackles, missing only one, was greater than any Storm player other than Cameron Smith (38) and bettered only by Rhinos’ Brett Delaney (42).

No player offloaded more than the former England captain’s five and, in a nutshell, he was just an utter nuisance to their esteemed opponents, belying his veteran status and reminding everyone there is life in this old dog yet.

Peacock’s own assessment of that performance correlate with such data.

“Sometimes you can play well in attack and not be too good in defence or the other way around,” he explains. “But Friday was one of the few times I’ve ever got things right on both sides and played as well as I could in each.

“To do that against a real, high-quality side like Melbourne, though, is what was real pleasing.

“One of my aims now, as one of the older players at Leeds, is to use my experience in the really big games.

“I think I’ve done that over the last three years whether it be in Grand Finals, Challenge Cup or the Manly World Club Challenge last season. I think I did it again against the Storm, too.”

Of course, the Super League champions fell just short, losing 18-14 and the feeling of disappointment was tangible afterwards.

“We should have been more clinical,” added Peacock.

“If we’d have taken our chances we’d have won and we know that.

“No side had ever retained the World Club Challenge and that’s why it was so disappointing.

“The pleasing aspect was we created chances against the best defence in the NRL so that shows we’ve got something.

“We showed resolve and character, too, coming back from 8-0 down, but when you get to finals you don’t want to just make a good account of yourself. You want to win them.”

Visiting Saints tonight is, in Peacock’s eyes, the perfect spot to begin their recovery.

Peacock continued: “It’s a very difficult place to go and it’s great to have that sort of test after the World Club.

“Sometimes, if you’re playing one of the lesser teams, it’s not ideal but Saints away is a great chance for us to go out and play.

“We didn’t beat them last year and have not beaten them in the regular rounds for some time. That is in the back of our minds.”

Indeed, for all their dominance over the Merseysiders in Grand Finals, it was September, 2009 the last time they defeated Saints in a regular round and another year further back when they last won on their travels.

St Helens are, of course, under new management this season with ex-Huddersfield Giants coach Nathan Brown in charge.

The Australian has had a difficult opening and still awaits a first home win after enduring a huge loss against his former club and then managing only a draw against Hull FC.

However, they ominously flexed their muscles at Bradford on Saturday, prevailing 36-10 as the likes of James Roby, Jonny Lomax and Tony Puletua got used to the new systems being implemented.

Peacock admitted: “For me, you can train all you like but you need to play to make sure systems work.

“They’ll get better and they are finding that out but we know we’re going to have to play well over there to win.

“It’s back to Super League for us now and we’ve got a massive block of games coming up.

“We don’t want to finish fifth again. We want to finish as high as we can and then have a crack at defending our title from there.”

And, before you know it, it will be time for that World Cup opener against the Kangaroos on October 26.

A quick and final word for new RFL chairman Brain Barwick; keep a little of your budget behind, just – just, mind – in case you might need to reimburse the cost of a certain former England captain’s holiday.