I love the smell of linament on the eve of the rugby league season.
You can smell it in the air.
We are a little less than three weeks away from the start of the NRL.
During the past fortnight the build-up to the season has been cosigned to the bench.
The focus on the Australian Crime Commission investigation into drugs in sport and also allegations of match fixing.
The authorities concerned will sort all this out.
I am excited about the coming season.
Excited about the footy and not the off field distractions
The Bunnies and the Roosters kick-off the new season on Thursday, March 7, at Allianz Stadium.
These two fierce rivals will go hammer and tongs in the opener.
The ill feeling between both clubs is embedded in their psyche.
Putting it bluntly they hate each other.
Even if you don’t follow the Rabbitohs or the Roosters, it’s always a game worth watching.
There is even more spice in this one with the long awaited return of Sonny Bill Williams to the league arena since he quit the game, walked out on the Bulldogs, and flew to France in 2007, to begin a rugby union career and a journey which saw SBW play for the All Blacks. He has also dabbled in boxing but the less said the better about that.
I am glad the talented athlete is back in the greatest game of all.
Many players in the history of sport have changed codes, or switched clubs within their codes.
SBW has plenty of natural skill and talent, even his most ardent critics would have to admit that.
There are few more gifted footballers in the game.
His speed, size, athleticism, one-arm off-loads, the ability to swerve and change direction for such a big man and retain pace, is second to none.
SBW also moves well laterally in defence, an absolute must for any prop and back rower in the game today. So quick is the speed of the game and rapidfire passing from attackers suspect defenders are isolated.
Moving along from SBW, at the start of every new season, there are many opinions, views, debates and arguments held about who will make the top eight, who will run last, which team will improve and which team will slide down the ladder.
Heavens above it would not be a footy season without speculation about coaches even before a ball has been kicked.
Which coach will be first to get the boot. Only time will tell.
As a proud Dragons supporter, the coach of the my team Steve Price, has already been under the hammer. I feel for him.
The Dragons chased Melbourne’s Craig Bellamy hard and he turned them down at the last minute to remain with the Storm.
Steve Price has felt more heat than Eddie Obeid in recent weeks preparing the mighty Dragons for the 2013 campaign.
A few early observations I would like to make.
The Bulldogs are the team to beat in my eyes.
Coach Des Hasler, one of the most thorough in the business, will leave no stone unturned to take the Dogs one further step further this season.
One piece of info I want to bring forward, is that Canterbury’a last two premierships have been won nine years apart in 1995 and 2004. The year 2013 is nine years since the last grand final victory.
I am not baseing my argument on this calendar observation, but I thought I would like to mention it.
Other teams I expect to do well include, Newcastle, who I think will be real improvers and make the top eight, I rate them in my top five teams.
Never underestimate coach Wayne Bennett.
The Knights have recruited well.
Beau Scott and Jeremy Smith add the muscle and they know what Wayne wants to bolster the forward pack. Both men were the cornerstone of the Dragons’ 2010 grand final triumph.
BJ Leilua, who was released by the Roosters, and who has been in more strife than a boiled chook in a chef’s pot in recent years, will boost the Knights’ backline strength.
Bennett will bring the young talent into line and fix his discpline and get inside his troubled mind and get the best out of him.
Throw in Darius Boyd, Dane Gagai and Akuila Uate, and a returning Kurt Gidley from shoulder surgery, it’s not a bad looking football team.
Willie Mason is the wildcard in the Knights team. He showed enough last season to suggest he still has plenty more to offer.
In fact the Knights are my long range tip to win the 2014 NRL title.
Throw in Melbourne, Souths, Cronulla, Manly and North Queensland, and we have a red hot competition with a galaxy of stars and a season full of promise and thrilling games ahead.
I also expect the Wests Tigers under new coach Mick Potter to surprise, with little fanfare or media hype about the team then off-season. The under-the radar- approach will suit them.
The countdown is on for March 7.