GRAND FINAL DAY LOCKED IN | Three big fixtures next Sunday at Sydney's ANZ Stadium! Burleigh and Ill...
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Turn and face the strain Just gonna have to be a different man Time may change me But I can't trace time
The dawn of a new rugby league season brings with it a series of changes. Many of these revolve around new rules or modified existing ones in a blatant and public attempt to make the NRL even more of a spectacle. Other changes can be found in the lineups of each club as they release loved sons and welcome new blood in a constant balancing act between quality and the salary cap. And, in a competition as close as this one, a new season usually brings with it new reigning Premiers and, err, recently spanked wooden spooners.
Of course, I'm covering the adjustments that have a wide ranging effect across the whole competition. There are indubitably other changes that have perhaps the same magnitude of impact, but on a smaller scale.
Take, for example, a number of things that happened during the Round 2 match between the Sea Eagles and the Warriors on Sunday afternoon.
The most obvious - for a Warriors fan, of course - was the return of Stacey Jones. He signalled the resumption of his competitive playing career and simultaneously silenced his critics with that first dummy run, piercing the Manly defensive line and setting up a potential try for Nathan Fien.
Then came the chip and chase from 60 metres out, luring the opposition fullback in with great support from Wade McKinnon, before throwing an intelligent dummy pass, shifting in the opposite direction, and setting Brent Tate away to score.
And just to top it off, he came up with the pinpoint bomb that enabled Jerome Ropati to level the scoreboard with a try that, when converted, gave us the win.
It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that despite all the changes in the sport, the Stacey Jones of old is very much the same.
Another change was the New Zealand club's season start. Only twice before have we finished Round 2 with 4 competition points. Those were in 2002, (courtesy in a large part to a Round 1 bye), and in 2007. We've never won our first 3 regular season rounds before, and yet, with the Bulldogs likely to miss out on their competition points due to fielding 14 players at the time of their winning try against the Panthers, we could soon be sitting atop the table.
And the final change that happened on Sunday was that I wore my Warriors jersey for the last time. Yes, I know that sounds rather alarming, but let me explain.
2 years ago on Monday, my father passed away from a heart attack at the age of 61. He and I shared our father-and-son time at Warriors matches. League was the vehicle upon which our relationship revved into life. A few days after his death, the Warriors defeated the Broncos 24-14 at home - the only other time we'd won both opening matches, as mentioned earlier.
I followed this tremendously emotional victory with a visit to the screen printers to get our family name and Dad's age printed on the back of his jersey, and his name embroidered onto the front:
Dad's jersey became my jersey. His seat at Mt Smart became my seat. Try celebrations were spent with him. Lunch breaks often involved visits to