Off the Wall

I am over the wet weather, and definitely over the negative coverage sport has been receiving in recent weeks.

Today's news concerning one of the rising stars in the game, if he is not a star already, Ben Barba, is sad.

Lets just hope he can deal with and overcome the issues that have put a great career on "hold" for now.

But the good news in my view comes in two parcels - firstly, the quality of football during the trials has been outstanding.

Provided the drugs and gambling issues don't consume the game, and its stakeholders, for an inordinate and disproportionate period of time, the season ahead should be a great one.

And, after a profoundly boring and disappointing summer of cricket, the fans are lapping up the return of the greatest game of all in spades.

The All Stars match drew a crowd of in the 40 thousands - and rated highly.

I always regard the "unofficial" start of the series as being the time honoured Charity Shield match between the Dragons and the Rabbitohs.

Last Friday nights match lived up to the standard of the match over the years. But here is the really good news - the match was an outstanding success on Fox Sports.

It was the highest rating program across all Fox Sports channels - on a very busy weekend for sport.

The viewing audience was 240,000 - truly outstanding for what was essentially a trial game, played on a Friday night. The relative newcomer in the regular pre-season agenda - the Foundation Cup featuring the Roosters and the Tigers - drew a viewing audience of 173,000...even without Sonny Bill Williams.

You would have thought the "origin" rugby match between the Reds and the Waratahs would have been a top rating match. Far from it - it had an audience of 174,000.......just one thousand more than the Foundation Cup trial match. All this proves is something I often write about - rugby league fans are an extraordinarily tolerant lot!

Even when the game was at its lowest during the infamous "Super League" war, rugby league fans remained loyal, and tolerant.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for that other "super league" game......the UK premiership. The World Club Challenge on Saturday morning may have been a sell out, but that is about the only piece of good news I have seen coming out of the old country in the current season, and in recent times.

Crowd numbers are very ordinary, and even worse, a significant number of clubs are staggering towards bankruptcy or even closure.

The game in England desperately needs something.

Perhaps its "need" can best be solved by an "injection" of Sonny Bill Williams, and Israel Folau?

I can but live in hope.

The greatest game of all here in Australia might be in uncharted waters - but where it counts most, fan support, it looks to be in great shape!

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