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Put away the cricket bat, beach balls and whatever else you want to associate with summer, because the long wait for NRL in 2006 is almost over.
While we?ve had to put up with a low quality tour by the West Indies and a slightly better South African Test series to relieve us from the now traditional summer boredom, Australia then started playing Twenty/20 games and a meaningless 15-game One Day series against nonsense opponents with ridiculous ?super-sub? and ?powerplay? novelties as rules. It was about that time that I think most footy fans were joining me in crossing the days off the calendar, until now.
In spite of the fact that cricket has a tendency to dominate the back pages over summer, rugby league still found ways to show the fans that the game had not disappeared off planet earth, but no doubt the publicity the game received was some that it could have done without.
It even went as far as commanding the front pages, but unfortunately for rugby league, the game doesn?t usually feature there for the recognition of players? charity work. And Craig Gower made sure of that?
Then there was the ongoing saga with regards to the South Sydney Rabbitohs becoming privatised, which has interested me about as much as a badminton tournament in Uzbekistan. The issue has dragged on and on, and the sooner a decision is made the better things will be for all parties, and we won?t have to bear another whining comment from George Piggins ever again (hopefully!). The club needs to make a decision which will lead them to become a superior football team to what they have been since their return in 2002. Memo to Souths: Whatever you decide, just hurry up! You?re putting us all to sleep at a time of year when we should be jumping out of our skin.
It did, however, keep rugby league in the news over summer. And I guess, for that reason alone, it can be given some credence.
The Scott Prince saga was another the game could have done without, in particular diehard Tigers fans. Not the best look is it? The Wests Tigers captain having dinner with the Gold Coast Titans Chief Executive Michael Searle in Martin Place, the heart of Sydney?s city, for one and all to see. If I was a Tigers supporter, I think I would have been excused if I had have choked on my dinner when the pictures were aired on the news that evening. At least now Prince has signed, and we can all concentrate on the footy.
The game also had to cope with the tragic news of losing one of its favourite sons, Cronulla legend and CEO Steve Rogers, who sadly took his own life in January of this year.
And let?s not forget the ongoing and bizarre coaching saga. It started with Michael Hagan signing with Parramatta for season 2007, and we thought things were uncertain enough at that stage. We are then informed that Penrith have told John Lang that his services are not required, and Matthew Elliot will be his replacement at the end of 2006. I guess a playing equivalent would maybe be Newcastle telling Andrew Johns that his services are not required beyond this season, and that their reasoning behind the decision was because Cooper Cronk was too good a player to refuse. There?s plenty more to come with the coaching saga, all I?ll say at this stage is that I?m not only crossing off the days to March 10, but also June 30.
We also had the dreaded news for all Bulldogs supporters that Sonny Bill Williams will again be injury-affected in 2006. The teenage sensation has played just 20 of a possible 52 games in two seasons for the Dogs, and he looks set to miss at least the first 6 weeks of the 2006 season. If he doesn?t get on the field for a reasonable number of games this season, the Bulldogs may look to offload him at the end of 2007. They must be scratching their heads after offloading Braith Anasta to keep Williams and Willie Mason, who appear to have more injury problems than the Roosters-bound NSW five-eighth.
Last but definitely not least, the Warriors were caught breaching the salary cap by $1 Million over 3 seasons, but for some reason they only lost 4 points. Correct if I?m wrong, but didn?t the Bulldogs lose 37 points for a $1mil breach just 4 years ago? It?s obvious to me that the NRL gauged the Bulldogs? punishment on their success, and not the crime. It?s also clear that the only reason they didn?t dock more points from the Warriors 2006 tally, was because they would have done well to get three men and a dog to the games if more points were lost.
Some good news to finish though, with Andrew Johns returning successfully in a trial game against Cronulla a couple of weeks ago, and the game?s best player looks set to start the season free of injury. Let?s hope that in 2006, the superstars of the game such as Johns, Sonny Bill Williams and Benji Marshall can stay injury-free, for the sake of the kids who love watching the game?s best, in particular that trio, perform free of any injury.
So buckle up for a magnificent season ahead, with all news, live scores, and match reports right here on www.leagueunlimited.com
With just 2 days left to cross off the calendar, personally I just can?t wait.
Season 2006 - Bring it on!