Jack Brown: England lived up to hype in ‘really special’ Copper Box opener

Jack Brown was pleased to blow off some cobwebs and live up to the hype on a “special” night at Copper Box Arena where favourites England started the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup with a 38-8 victory over Australia.

The wheelchair tournament began with a double-header at the Olympic Park venue on Thursday where 3,033 spectators were present across two matches to set a new record attendance for a wheelchair rugby league fixture.

After Spain beat Ireland 55-32 earlier in the day, England got the chance to show their title credentials and despite a slow start, a brace from Australia-based Brown helped them run in seven scores in front of a youthful but partisan crowd in London.

England v Australia – Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup – Group A – Copper Box Arena
Jack Brown helped England get their World Cup off to a winning start (Steven Paston/PA)

“It was an important win. It sets the tone and shows what England are about,” Brown said.

“The crowd was incredible and we’ve never had anything like this. It is a dream come true.

“It is something when I was 15-year-old kid playing this sport for the first time, I never imagined anything like this, it was just a push around but this is something really special.

“We said we wanted to come in and put on a good show for everyone. We really wanted to live up to the hype. I think we did that and the Aussies did a good job of matching that too.”

Diab Karim had opened the scoring for the Wheelaroos after 10 minutes but it only proved to jolt the hosts into action with Joe Coyd dotting down twice in three minutes to flip the momentum.

Brown had been introduced by this point and the numberless England ace left big hits on a number of opposition players he usually coaches during his role at Queensland.

After two fine finishes, he was only denied a hat-trick by some last-ditch Australian defending, which saw both posts floored with a half-time lead of 20 points established after Nathan Collins had also got in on the act.

Collins grabbed a second score late on, after Lewis King had gone over at the start of the second half, to give Tom Coyd’s men a strong opening-day result that highlights why many are tipping them to add a second World Cup to their 2008 triumph.

England v Australia – Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup – Group A – Copper Box Arena
Lewis King was among England’s tryscorers (Steven Paston/PA)

Brown said: “I have just got so much belief in this team. I just have so much trust in these boys and what they can do.

“They won’t let anyone down, we all work so hard for each other and we won’t drop the ball.”

Head coach Tom Coyd praised the impact of the record-breaking crowd on a day where the wheelchair tournament got under way to join the rugby league takeover in this country after the men’s and women’s World Cups got started last month.

It is the first time all three have occurred simultaneously in what is the fourth edition of the wheelchair World Cup.

“An amazing event,” head coach Coyd said.

“As a spectator I thought the atmosphere was unbelievable. The Copper Box is such a good place to play sport, we know that from the Olympics and the crowd really showed up. The boys felt that as well.”

Australia counterpart Brett Clark talked up the impact of man-of-the-match Brown, who showed why in 2020 he was awarded the inaugural Golden Boot – for the best player in international matches – with an all-action display that included massive tackles in addition to flair.

Clark said: “I wish Jack all the very best but I would also like to kick his backside when he is playing!

“Him getting player of the match, we all saw him play. He came off the bench and that was the change.

“He was probably one of the stand-out players out there and that is what made the difference. We were in the arm wrestle but he came on and that was when the game started to open up.”