It was a familiar and quite painful moment and yet there was still something quite irritatingly brilliant about it.

With the last play of Great Britain’s final 2006 Tri Nations game, winger Gareth Raynor tried a desperate chip and chase deep in Australian territory only for a large pair of hands to snatch the ball.

Nathan Hindmarsh shovelled it to Cameron Smith to (inevitably) Darren Lockyer to Karmichael Hunt whose crossfield kick was gathered by winger Brent Tate to score in the corner.

High up in the stand with friends on that humid night in Brisbane I remember almost laughing at the freakish killer play. Almost.

As Great Britain supporters we were used to these sickening late stings.

Great Britain fought hard to get back into the 2006 Tri-Nations game against Australia

 

And yet there were reasons to be proud. The game was dead when Tate went over to make it 33-10.

But that night the chasers didn’t give up.

Gareth Ellis, Gareth Hock, Paul Wellens and Danny McGuire all desperately hared back in forlorn pursuit.

Lads born in Leeds, Wigan, St Helens – our lads – never gave up.

Fast forward 13 years and that Great Britain defeat and the feelgood vibe of that trip seems a distant memory.

GB have lost three games on the bounce on a dismal tour

 

Watching from low down on a British sofa for the last three weeks has been painful at best.

When you put aside a fan’s passion for the team, it’s actually no great shock they’ve lost three games on the bounce given the players unavailable, the inevitable injuries and the strength of the opposition.

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Tonga beat Australia after seeing off GB and any Kiwi team with a spine of three of their nation’s most dynamic and captivating players ever in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Johnson and Benji Marshall is a match for anyone at any time.

But it’s the manner in which this tour has been thought out, the players selected to fill those gaps and, most importantly, the words of the coach which have done the damage and betrayed the brand.

It started with the World Nines, a glorious couple of days of action only marred by the blinkered selection choices of England coach Wayne Bennett.

Wayne Bennett made blinkered selection choices in the World Nines

 

His team sheet looked archaic, like an England T20 cricket team opening the batting with Geoff Boycott and Chris Tavare.

In their final game, a predictable defeat to the Kiwis, England had four props in their 13.

Compare that with Australia who started with one front row in their winning 13.

Bennett simply picked players who would switch shirts to GB when they moved across the Tasman to New Zealand.

He may have been financially hamstrung by his RFL paymasters and limited in choice with who he could take out to Sydney. But it’s more likely he wanted time with the bulk of the players who would form his Great Britain side.

George Williams should have been given a proper crack

 

Imagine picking a side with speed, picking the likes of say Keiran Dixon, Mason Caton-Brown, Darnell Macintosh, Greg Eden. Let Jake Trueman and George Williams have a proper crack and add other young halves and quicker forwards. Play nines, not 13-a-side warm-up.

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It has been no better in New Zealand with an obsession with NRL-based players backfiring.

Tom Burgess is the third best of those bruise brothers and you wonder what on earth Liam Watts has done to not be selected ahead of him – apart from the fact he plays in the orange of Castleford and not the orange of Wests Tigers.

It was clear after the first game against Tonga that England were unbalanced by Josh Hodgson, a brilliant hooker for Canberra, dominating the attacking plays.

It has left two fine half-backs, Jackson Hastings and Gareth Widdop, looking lost and treading water behind him.

Gareth Widdop in action against Tonga

 

GB only came to life with the introduction of Daryl Clark from the bench for Hodgson in both the Kiwi defeats – by which time it was far too late to change things.

Bennett admitted he is trying combinations in his halves for the World Cup in 2021.

You might begrudgingly accept his stubbornness and honesty if he didn’t contradict that by picking Chris Hill at prop, Ryan Hall on the wing.

Both have been fine international servants but will be 34 and 33 in two years’ time.

James Graham is 34 now and with Sam Burgess retired the England team is starting to look thinner on the ground already with the Kangaroos bouncing over next year.

GB came to life with the introduction of Daryl Clark from the bench in the defeats to New Zealand

 

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Taking just three outside backs was never going to be enough against the juggernauts they faced, and of course that has backfired spectacularly.

But these things wouldn’t matter so much if Bennett talked the talk and pumped up a brand which means so much.

For my generation Great Britain has always meant more than England. The history, certain moments, the strip, the legends. We had Jonathan Davies on OUR side.

Bennett admitted he never even considered St Helens winger Regan Grace because he is not part of the England pathway.

Given the fate of Ash Handley, called up to travel to Papua New Guinea then farcically not selected in the 21, maybe it was for the best for the Welshman.

Regan Grace wasn’t even considered because he is not part of the England pathway

 

Bennett has consistently drawn no line between England and Great Britain on the tour.

Why hasn’t he been advised and cajoled by respected figures like Kevin Sinfield into talking up Britain?

Fans have bought the kit, bought into this trip and paid thousands of pounds to travel to the other side of the world. You can only feel sorry for them.

Back in 2006 Great Britain gave me my finest rugby league moment…and there have been many.

Two weeks before that defeat in the heat of Queensland those lads from Yorkshire and Lancashire – and an Irishman on the wing – beat the Aussies in Sydney.

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It was tipping it down at times that night but none of the sodden GB fans cared.

We do care about the Great Britain brand, though.

I don’t expect Wayne Bennett to have the fervour of a Papua New Guinean schoolkid when he speaks on behalf of a team steeped in British rugby league history.

But I do expect him to recognise Great Britain is not England.

Those players and fans from Leeds, St Helens and Wigan and crucially the home nations beyond deserve far better.





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