The NRL All Stars finally brought rugby league back to Sydney, and back to TV screens with the season rapidly approaching last night at a wet and wild CommBank Stadium in Parramatta, with the Maori team running out 16 points to 10 winners over the Indigenous side.
In a display of passion and culture, the game, for the second straight year, went down to the final minute.
A draw last year was followed this time around by the Maori team clinging onto their six-point lead to turn it into a victory by the slimmest of margins, keeping out a last-ditch attacking raid by the Indigenous.
It was exactly what the game - close all the way - deserved. While there were questions in the lead up as players, worried by COVID and a lack of preparation for the new season, withdrew, but there were no questions on the night.
The pre-match ceremony was something to behold, and so was the match. Fights are rare in the regular season, but the teams came together in scuffles on a number of occasions on Saturday evening as passion and intensity spilt over.
It might yet cost Jordan Rapana and Andrew Fifita, who were both put on report and will face a nervous wait for the judiciary to determine their fates, but the game proved once and for all that it belongs, with a crowd of more than 26,000 on hand to witness it, despite the prevailing COVID threat and horrid weather conditions.
Here are the big points from the game.
6. Joseph Tapine will be a key for the Raiders
Joseph Tapine, picked to captain the Maori All Stars team, led from the front in what was a stand out performance for the Raiders.
The bustling prop had a less than excellent 2021 season in a Raiders team which just couldn't find their groove. Josh Papalii might be the pack leader, but he needs support in far better ways than he got it last year.
That has to start and end with Tapine.
Part of this equation will be on Ricky Stuart to ensure he is playing in roles that suit him, with minutes that suit him, but Tapine has always felt like an under-utilised talent during his time in the NRL, stretching right back to his days at the Newcastle Knights.
Being unvaccinated - as reported during the week - could yet play a role in the type of season Tapine has, given the Raiders are scheduled to play three games in Queensland and one in Victoria - but it won't stop him from being a weapon when he is on the park.
If anything, he proved last night that he is fit and ready for the season ahead.
It's up to the Raiders to use him properly and allow him to join Papalii and co in laying the platform for a much better 2022, and with a proper kicking game led by Jamal Fogarty, Jack Wighton back to his best and the excitement of Xavier Savage, it's a Raiders team who are only a few pieces of the puzzle away from being excellent.
Tapine is one of the biggest pieces.