Dear Rugby League,
Oh how I have missed you.
The weekend's with my feet up, not a care in the world.
Occasionally taking to social media to describe how I, an unfit 30 something year old with one game of League 25+ years ago under my belt, would have achieved something better than those paid to play the game.
The online banter. The beers. The excitement of seeing my side lead with ten minutes to go.
The anger of my side losing in the final moments.
The times spent looking at SuperCoach to see just how bad my decisions were this week. The minutes and minutes spent considering trade options and often picking the wrong one.
Coming into work on a Monday confident of a near perfect round of tips only to discover I got 4 or less.
Waiting for team list Tuesday only to blow up as certain players are either overlooked or named despite a horror run of form. Switching on come game time to realise late changes have been made making me wonder why we even bother in the first place.
I miss it all ... but you're back, almost!
I even missed the ridiculous media stories that follow every players ever move, leading to some downright embarrassing reports; such as a super fit looking player being slightly sluggish in his first training run back.
The 'insider info' on team selections that prove to be no accurate than "Mr In The Know" on an unofficial forum claiming to be friends with the guy who knew the girl who once dated the coach 20 years ago. Scoop!
I'd even take a Titans vs Bulldogs round of footy where each side played each other eight times.
I mean that with the greatest of respect but Titans and Dogs fans, your teams are terrible! Ahh the horrible NRL banter.
Three weeks to go, although unlike in previous off-seasons, I'm holding my breathe almost constantly.
Every time an NRL player coughs, sneezes or has a sore throat they're off for testing and we all wait. Any positive test now completely huge doubt over that magical date of May 28th.
Players rejecting flu shots.
Councils rejecting plans for sides to base in their facilities.
Channel 9 seem hell bent on moving on their most prized asset because ... reasons, I guess?
Fox Sports look void of content ideas having been reduced to live calling games from many years ago. It's not all bad, but what made producers think the recent Anasta and Burgess segment was a good idea? ... reasons, I guess?
We've seen a sharp decline in cases recently with WA, SA and Tasmania celebrating days and even weeks with 0 cases per day. Unfortunately NSW, QLD and Victoria remain the worst affected.
On any given day a sudden spike puts an end to the dream but for now, you're back and I love you more than ever.
On a rare serious note this will provide a distraction that is very much needed for many people, myself included.
I'm by no means in a bad spot. Cannot stress enough how lucky I have been throughout this entire pandemic, but others aren't so lucky.
No a game of footy won't solve most problems but it's something in a time where people are clinging onto literally anything.
I can't wait to see the Sharks run out onto an empty Shark Park V2 against the Knights. No Ponga? You beauty!
Before the season the general barbs were that Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan were injury prone and going to miss the opening two months of footy. Ha! Joke's on you! They only missed two rounds.
Bronson Xerri has had an extra six weeks to rest up, and bleach his hair, which I'm assured will make him even faster.
I'm looking forward to those clever fans who build structures near suburban grounds gifting their team a 100% crowd advantage by adding five or six people to the mix ... although truthfully I can't see those being allowed now. Still though, fun while they lasted.
As strange as it was I was enjoying hearing the players communicate. Without the tens of thousands of fans there to drown it out it was fun to hear how halves instructed their forwards. Or how certain players *cough Cam Smith* were less than respectful towards the officials.
The celebrations of tries in front of literally camera men and women, and a select few members of staff, was awesome. Tries are still worth four points whether its in an empty arena or a sold out ANZ Stadium!
This time in three week's (as I write this) I'll be on the train home looking forward to a game of Rugby League.
Something that, has until recently, been a constant. A given. A right almost.
The last six weeks have been tough but it's made us all appreciate how important the game is to us.
Hopefully that translates into huge crowds when restrictions are finally dropped and we're allowed to support our Rugby League heroes.
Three weeks ... it's going to be good to have you back my eldest and dearest friend!