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It’s been nearly seven months of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion; a marathon of hope, triumph and crushing losses. In fact, I don’t think I could have watched even one more game. I’d imagine the players are pretty tired too.

I’ve tipped every losing side right through to the Warriors, followed my team down nine spots on the ladder, written thousands of column inches of uninformed opinions and shallow analysis, and driven out to Homebush and back more times than I care to remember. But I’ve picked myself up off the sofa and pulled myself together to write this thank-you to the actual hard-working men and women who not only brought us this season, but who are working with the kids who’ll bring us many more in the years to come.

There are thousands of people who contribute to making rugby league the greatest game of all: mums and dads who drive their kids to games, teachers, volunteers, the hundreds of hard workers at the NRL and the clubs, right up to the boards and the sponsors. Each of them deserves a long, lazy summer - none more so than the secretary of the Kellyville Bushrangers, Penny Morgan, who this year was named the 2011 Toyota National Volunteer of the Year. 

Penny and the Bushrangers raised $3500 dollars for the repeatedly flood-ravaged town of Theodore, money which was used to help rebuild the town’s rugby league side and its badly damaged clubhouse. Not content with that mammoth effort, Penny also helped organise 60 volunteers to travel north for a goodwill State-of-Origin tour to bring the rugby league community together. Fortunately, Penny has plenty of time to spare as she’s only got seven children.

To all of you I wish lazy weekend mornings, and a summer free of injuries, scandals, and losses. May David Gallop once again enjoy reading his weekend newspapers. May Ray “Rabbits” Warren’s next nail-biting flight not be until March next year. May Gus Gould take a short break from raging against the machine and embrace the serenity of the sun-soaked off-season, and may my only drive to Homebush this summer be to Acer Arena for the long-awaited Dolly Parton concert.

There are about 154 sleeps to go until Round 1, 2012. What will Ivan Cleary do with Duke’s Panthers? Can the super-coach Wayne Bennett work his fatherly magic on the Knights? Will Sonny Bill be back? Who would he play for? And can the Blues finally win a series against rampaging Mal’s Maroons?

In the meantime, there’s the cricket, those long summer days of knowing, most of the time, who will win. How long do you think it will be until we all start yearning for a fast-flowing, hard-hitting game of rugby league? I give it until 7.30pm Friday. 

Thank you players, thank you refs, thank you ball boys … it’s been quite a year.