SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 06: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves of the Roosters celebrates winning the 2019 NRL Grand Final match between the Canberra Raiders and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium on October 06, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

RugbA League

/ˌrʌɡba ˈliːɡ/

noun
The greatest game of all. The reason Winter is not only bearable but enjoyable. The greyer of hairs, the raiser of voices, the bringer of love. The source of both frustration and joy in almost equal amounts.

One Week. Seven sleeps. It genuinely feels like Christmas!

With venues slowly opening for up to 10 people I even received a message earlier this morning re the possibility of a beer and dinner for the early Friday night game.

Seriously the joy in something that we, for so long, took for granted as every day life, is something that will be written about for years.

The fixtures, at least for the opening fortnight, have been set and we’re ready to go.

First up is the mouth watering blockbuster between the undefeated Eels and the equally undefeated Broncos. Empty stadium or not, this is going to be an absolute belter.

My guess is this will be round one all over again so it would be unfair to expect players to hit the ground running. There will be errors, there will be penalties.

Right now we don’t even know how or IF the games will be refereed. It’s going to be a long week but it would be a shame to see a referee disruption to the point where untested referees are brought in.

I’m not 100% sold on this return to one referee. I certainly don’t hate it like the majority seem to on twitter despite complaining about two referees for two + seasons.

I don’t know how to feel re these ruck infringements and the six again call. We can’t even get six again calls right with two referees let alone all the changes.

I do like the increased involvement of touch judges though. They have recently been reduced to the background of video referee referrals. One needs to police the ten while the other the ruck. Back to being assistants rather than flag wavers.

Hopefully we return to a spot where touch judges can make the calls re forward passes. For all the attention re wrestling, video refs etc, the one major frustration for me remains the amount of forward passes let go.

No matter what the outcome, I really hope the referees aren’t forgotten in all of this.

One thing that I did notice in the new draw is the strange use of home grounds. Melbourne and North Queensland have genuine home games (albeit without the crowd advantage) while Newcastle and Canberra have to travel!?

Strange.

The fact that Manly are playing out of Central Coast Stadium opens up many joke opportunities which have not been missed across social media. How we feeling Bears fans? Such a shame we can’t have crowds.

Not that it will overly matter but the Storm, Cowboys, Eels and Tigers all enjoy home ground advantage. As a Sharks fan I feel like we’ve again worked round the system. Not that we’d ever do such a thing …

Bit annoyed we lost our Ponga-less fixture against the Knights but a return to the game vs the Tigers should be fun. No Paul Gallen to kick a last minute field goal in 2020 though.

Can’t wait for the Roosters/Bunnies game on Friday night. Will def be in front of the TV, beers in the fridge and dinner prepared for that one. Cordner is back, Latrell vs the Roosters. The rivalry. Sign me up.

Tipping nightmare though!

Who is going to hit the ground running? Who is going to have those players who start sluggishly?

The Warriors look to be fit and firing despite uncertainty and their moving across the Tasman. Huge shout out to the Warriors by the time. Loving the membership numbers growing as a result of support from League fans.

Is Gallen serious when he said he’d consider coming back to play for the Warriors? I really can’t see why the NRL would flatly shut down loaning players to the club considering the circumstances of what the Warriors have given up.

I don’t like this supposed inter club trial idea. I want to see NSW Cup, in some capacity, return. Even if its just the Sydney based teams playing for a modified competition prize.

The Super Coach line up is set and locked on. Not to be touched again … until after work today. I have a tough choice to make re Jesse Ramien. Does he stay or does he go? Joseph Manu too. Ugh. The pain.

Tips are locked in, however although I did them yesterday, I couldn’t tell you with any great degree of confidence who I picked in a couple of the closer games.

How good is the return to the game of Greg Inglis? Great stuff, although I didn’t like how serious twitter took comments by Billy Slater re him possibly returning too.

This week is either going to go really fast, or more likely really really slowly.

Either way, we’re within touching distance. Let’s hope the referees and the NRL can come to an agreement and we can kick this thing off.

This time next week we’ll be ready for some, as my kids love to say with absolutely no coaching at all on my behalf, RUGBY LEAGUE BABY!!!