Voss: Six highlights of the NRL draw
The release of the NRL draw this week has got me excited.
To be honest, March 5 can't come quickly enough.
So much traffic of players between clubs; a drought-breaking defending premier with significant loss of key personnel; a master coach returning home… Take your pick. There are so many reasons for your interest to be aroused.
Let me take a run through some of my highlights from the draw.
1) It all starts game one
The title "blockbuster" isn't sufficient for the potential of 2015's opening game between Brisbane and premiers South Sydney.
One reason is the venue. There is no better place for a game of rugby league than Suncorp Stadium, and Brisbane being selected as host for season kick-off is apt reward for fantastic turnouts week in, week out, over many seasons. A 50,000 crowd will not surprise.
Two is the interest in the defending champions. Let me be the first to put a question mark on Souths after the loss of Sam Burgess and Ben Te'o. I don't believe they have covered for their exits despite the reputations of recruits Glenn Stewart and Tim Grant.
Early season defeats could mount enormous pressure on their campaign for back-to-back titles.
Three is the homecoming of Wayne Bennett. Does the supercoach still have the 'touch?'
A win over the champs first up will have Broncos fans believing normal transmission has resumed.
And four is the milestone for Corey Parker.
The match will mark his 300th NRL appearance. Here is a player who has just got better and better with age.
…But wait, there's more.
2) Do not disturb
Come the first weekend in March, I'm switching the mobile phone off, and donning the blinkers!
Note that in 2015, Round 1 will be the only time in the first 20 rounds to feature a Thursday night game.
After Brisbane for the season kick-off it will be off to Parramatta on Friday night with Anthony Watmough up against his former club. As if these arch rival clubs needed any extra spice.
Saturday, I'll be giving the local takeaway pizza joint a workout as back-to-back we'll be able to take in matches from Newcastle, the Gold Coast and Townsville.
Sunday football is all live (you beauty). And what a finals series rematch it will be at Penrith when the Panthers tackle the Bulldogs.
Meanwhile Ben Barba will debut for the Sharks on Sunday night against Canberra. While on the Monday night, Fox Sports will have a cracking contest to cover between the Storm and the Dragons.
Bring it on baby!
3) The Eels: no Hayne, all pain?
One club I believe that will be under pressure right from the kick-off is Parramatta.
They are coming off a squandered chance to play finals football in 2014. They won so much credibility back during the season; now they need to build on it.
But what a tough first month they face. It's a run that if they fail to fire in, I will be prepared to drop them as finals contenders.
Parramatta's draw reads Manly, Canterbury, then the Warriors in Auckland, and Souths.
Later in the season, they have already expressed concerns about a tough road stint from Round 20 through Round 22. They will go from Townsville to the Gold Coast to Darwin in consecutive weekends.
But the big factor missing is Jarryd Hayne.
His shoes, quite simply, cannot be adequately filled.
Overcome all of the above, and that will be a massive achievement for Brad Arthur's men.
4) A sleeping giant
The Warriors are notoriously bad starters. Wins in Round 1 are rare in the club's history, let alone stringing together a good first five or six weeks.
But 2015 represents a great chance to change all that.
Andrew McFadden's side have drawn five opponents in the first eight rounds that failed to play finals footy in 2014.
Three of their first four away games are at venues they won last year: Melbourne, Townsville and Canberra.
Reports from off-season training have their playing squad as the fittest they have ever been.
Here's a prediction: I reckon the Warriors will move into the top five of premiership betting in the first couple of months of the season.
5) Our most sacred day
In 2015 we will celebrate Anzac Day and the freedom we enjoy in Australia like never before via our favourite sporting code.
Five games are set down for April 25 in what can only be described as a marathon.
We will start in Auckland before crossing to Newcastle, then Allianz, onto Melbourne, and then finish in Brisbane.
A day of such high emotion is sure to deliver some of the best league we have seen on the one day for many a year.
6) Back to the kennel
It's a long while off right now, but July 26 is going to be something special for Bulldogs fans.
On that Sunday, Canterbury will host Cronulla at Belmore Sports Ground. It will be the first time they have played an NRL game at their old home ground since 1998.
I hope that state rail put on more trains that weekend to 'chugg' past the ground.
It'll also test out the modern day ballboy if the goalkickers get plenty of shots. Most end up over the fence at both ends! Ahhh… the good ol' days will be back.
It's less than seven weeks folks until the Auckland Nines.
That sounds like Christmas to me. Enjoy what is left of the off season break.