Peacock confident that Great Britain can shake off last-minute malaise

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The Independent Online

It is a safe bet that Jamie Peacock will feel better during today's Tri-Nations match than he did during last Saturday's. The bigger question is whether Great Britain can shake off the collective malaise that afflicts them in the final minutes of games.

To say that the Bradford forward's preparation for last week's game against Australia was not ideal would be a serious understatement. He was laid low by the Norwalk virus that has still been affecting the British camp this week and lost nine pounds in weight.

Two players were forced to drop out of the reckoning and Peacock thought he would be joining them.

"When I started being sick all the time, I thought I'd have to drop out," he says. "I felt worse because after losing the Grand Final to Leeds, I'd really looked after myself. Normally after a disappointment like that, you'd go on the beer for a few days, but I'd kept it to one day."

That did not make him feel any better the night before the match as he contemplated missing out, but the situation was retrieved by the drastic remedy of putting him on a drip on Saturday morning.

"It was two drips, really. One was saline and the other was something to make it stick inside me - plasma or something."

The treatment worked. Not only did Peacock get on to the field at the City of Manchester Stadium, he made the break for the first British try and played strongly until having to come off exhausted for the last few minutes. "They got a line drop-out with six minutes to go and I just shouted to the bench to bring me off."

That gave him a grandstand view of what happened next as, for the fourth match in a row, Australia found a way to win it and Great Britain a way to lose it at the death.

Peacock has played in all those games, plus some cliff-hangers against today's opponents, New Zealand, and if you want to make his temperature rise the best way is to suggest that there is something lacking in this British side that prevents them sustaining their effort for the full 80 minutes.

He calls those suggestions an insult and a slur on the team's integrity and says: "I'm just not buying into that at all.

"We've all shown in Super League games that we've got the mentality to go the full distance - Bradford-St Helens games are a good example - so we're not going to get to 79 minutes in an international and think 'Stuff it'."

"It's not fitness either, although six or seven years ago that might have been a problem. Maybe, as their prop Shane Webcke said, they're a luckier side than us. Some games come down to that. When Bradford couldn't beat Saints, it came down to them having a bit more luck than we had."

Having been denied by Australia, be it by bad luck, bad judgement or whatever, Peacock and his team-mates need to beat the Kiwis if they are to have a realistic chance of winning the Tri-Nations.

"It's a match we have to win and it will be a bit different from playing Australia. The Kiwis are a particularly physical side. They like to be in your face with a very aggressive approach."

Ever since his days as a junior at Stanningley on the outskirts of Leeds, that is just the way Peacock has always liked it.

He is also a player who likes to stay close to his roots in the game. As a boy, his first rugby memories are of watching his local professional side, Bramley. Now that they are re-formed and play at Stanningley, he walks down from his home to watch them and to help them re-establish themselves.

"Rugby league is a bit different from most sports in that a lot of players like to remember where they come from," he says. "I never mind going down there, because I remember as a kid what a big thing it was if professional players came to your presentation nights and how disappointed you were if they didn't turn up."

Mind you, Peacock could have a long walk to watch Bramley if one of his possible career plans comes to fruition. As one of the most consistent forwards in Super League, he will be in demand when his Bradford contract runs out at the end of next season.

Apart from a declared interest from Leeds, who made a cheeky bid for him mid-way through last season, a couple of Australian clubs have already been in touch and Peacock could follow his Great Britain team-mate, Adrian Morley, into their NRL competition. But there is much unfinished business first, like bringing a trophy to Bradford next year and, first of all, proving that he and his colleagues can go the full distance against the best in the world.