Bill Arthur, the Sky Sports presenter, has mixed emotions in the run up to the rugby league World Cup final this weekend between England and Australia. In this exclusive blog, he reflects on the six-year anniversary of his diagnosis with prostate cancer, how friends and family have supported him through his treatment, and what his Sky Sports colleagues think England need to do to win on Saturday.
It’s nearly six years since I was diagnosed with locally advanced prostate cancer. So, six years of treatment – hormone, radiotherapy and chemo – so far. But all through that time I’ve been able to draw on some fantastic support from people involved in the game of rugby league. Several of them are part of England’s World Cup effort down under, and that’s why I’m hoping the team can defy the odds and beat Australia in Saturday’s final in Brisbane.
When rugby league was signing up to the Prostate Cancer UK cause about five years ago, one of the first players to pledge his backing was the current England captain Sean O’Loughlin. The Wigan forward is a lead-by-example sort of skipper and England will be hoping that he is fit to play at the weekend. The former Saint Helens full back, Paul Wellens, another legend of league, was also an early supporter of the rugby league and Prostate Cancer UK alliance and Paul is part of the England coaching staff in Brisbane.
Then there’s the England team manager, Jamie Peacock. He was another star player to get behind the charity. JP was a member of the last Great Britain rugby league team to beat Australia and that was 11 years ago in Sydney. Jamie made a big impact in that game – a lot of it on Aussie forward Willie Mason as the two had a spectacular bout of biff. England will need plenty of that spirit if they’re to overcome the world champions at the Suncorp Stadium this weekend.
There’s more cancer treatment to come for me, but I know I can rely on great support from my family, friends and colleagues at Sky Sports
Another Prostate Cancer UK supporter from the world of rugby league is Kevin Sinfield – one of the most decorated players in the sport, hero of the Leeds club and now Rugby Director for the game’s governing body, the RFL. Kevin’s taken part in Jeff Stelling's March for Men and he’s run the London Marathon in aid of the charity. He’s also given me a lot of inspiration during my treatment with his attitude to life and his determination. England will need 80 minutes of that when they face the Aussies.
There’s more treatment to come for me, as the cancer is still there in my prostate. But I know I can rely on great support from my family, friends and from my colleagues at Sky Sports. Several of them are ex-rugby league players themselves, so who better to ask about England’s chances this weekend.
Brian Carney (former winger for Wigan Warriors and Great Britain): “England can score against the Aussies but to do that they need to respect the ball when they have it and when they don't they have to defend like the world depended on it.”
Barrie McDermott (former prop for Leeds Rhinos and England): “England have the better pack of forwards but the back field for England holds the key.”
Jon Wells (former winger for London Broncos): “Limit the impact of Australia’s Golden Boot-winner Cameron Smith. Stop him and England have a chance."
Kevin Sinfield (former captain of Leeds Rhinos and England): “We need a 10/10 performance. Players win big games and we have to play well. Australia are a great team, but we have to believe we can win. I fully believe in this group.”