Kangaroos World Cup Tour Diary
Paul Gallen is about to snap.
It has nothing to do with Nate Myles or the supposed New South Wales-Queensland rivalry that reportedly threatens the Kangaroos' World Cup chances.
This is more personal. Gallen's tough guy persona has been exposed.
The fiercest and most brazen of rugby league forwards who has made a career out of charging tirelessly into the teeth of forward packs around the world has been hiding a little-known secret.
Up until now it had been relatively well hidden, but a dinner with the Australian team in Manchester revealed his fatal flaw for everyone to see. There can be no hiding from it now.
Gallen, fearless New South Wales captain and Australian vice-captain, is deathly afraid of bugs and spiders.
Sitting down to a meal at the Olive Tree restaurant, two long tables are aligned parallel to each other. Gallen is sitting on the end of one table minding his own business between entres and mains. Behind him, long-time teammate and friend Greg Bird is scheming.
A fake plastic spider, the property of Kangaroos captain Cam Smith, is gently placed on the big vice-captain's shoulder.
Gallen, catching a glimpse of the would be 'spider' on his right shoulder, immediately leaps to his feet. His wooden chair is dramatically pushed backwards behind him as he takes off for the door in a panicked flurry. In two strides, Gallen instinctively rips off his shirt in one motion as he bolts up the stairs.
A full touring party of Kangaroos players and staff explode into raucous laughter as the rest of the diners in the restaurant wonder what the hell is going on.
Not wanting to miss an opportunity, Bird filmed the whole thing and uploaded the video on social media. It has since had over 1,800 views.
Gallen took it all in good humour as his teammates re-watched the video at nauseam. The same night, the most menacing of plastic spiders managed to make its way onto Gallen's plate to a similar response.
At breakfast the following morning, the familiar laughs could be heard echoing around the tables at the team hotel. Each subsequent viewing reaffirmed how funny the incident had been.
The problem for Gallen is that his secret is now out and players are lining up to have their fill. A coincidental brush of his shoulder on the bus is met with trepidation. The veteran forward has taken it all in good humour, but after only one day, the joke may have already outplayed its welcome.
Seven weeks is a long time on tour.
The World Cup was officially launched at Old Trafford on Monday amid a sea of cameras, microphones, journalists, managers, coaches, Old Trafford staff and team captains.
This was a crazier scene than any open State of Origin media session I have ever been to.
The captains were bounced from one interview to the next in what must have felt like a tumble dryer. Journalists also felt the pressure as they chased their next interview in small working quarters, fighting the huddled masses to find space for an interview or latch onto an 'all-in' opportunity.
This is a scene rugby league rarely sees in this country, or for that matter any region outside of Sydney and Brisbane. It can only be a good thing for rugby league to have this kind of interest.
It was quite something to see Petero Civoniceva in his Fiji jumper chatting and joking away with Anthony Minichiello in his Italian jersey and Cameron Smith in the famous Australian green and gold. The three stars chatted about old times and reminisced in a brief moment of quiet before the main media opportunity started and the craziness began.
Former Kangaroos forward Brent Kite was also at the launch in a Tongan jersey.
All of these players have represented Australia with dignity, but the chance to strengthen the game internationally and represent another culture can only be a good thing for the game.
They all spoke well and are great ambassadors for rugby league.
Let's hope this World Cup unearths the next batch of stars to take the game forward.