As I sit and reflect on the first round of footy for 2015 I'm smiling… and no, not just because the Raiders won, but that has played a small part in my happiness this week.
Rugby league is back! Yes it was rusty at times. Yes there were many errors - dropped balls by the dozen, missed tackles and incomplete sets. But there was also that joy that only first grade NRL can bring, even when it's not pretty!
Our game is so unique that even when not played brilliantly it is always brilliant to watch. Don't get me wrong, there were some stand out performances in Round 1. Mitchell Pearce take a bow - captaincy suits you perfectly. Dane Gagai - five gold stars. Marty Tapau - two thumbs up. James Tedesco - your return from an epic injury was a delight. Chris Sandow - your renewed confidence is a pleasure to watch. Issac Luke - you looked lethal out there. And the Titans as a unit - congratulations on putting a tough situation aside and fighting all the way… it was almost my favourite game of the round.
Round 2 boasts a number of mouth watering clashes, none bigger than Sunday's blockbuster between the Rabbitohs and the Roosters - two sides most predict will finish top four this year, if not top two.
I think the Tricolours put in the most complete and impressive performance of Round 1. To lose two players of the calibre of Anthony Minichiello and Sonny Bill Williams, who not only provided crucial spark on the pitch but almost more importantly a lot of class off it, and then to dominate a star-studded North Queensland line up so convincingly I think puts them firmly into favouritism. It's never too early for a premiership favourite tag, right? And don't forget co-captain and talented hooker Jake Friend is on his way back from injury, so they will only improve with his return.
Having said that, the Bunnies have already won three trophies this year, off the back of an NRL premiership last season. They are hungry, that is a no brainer. You don't sense any complacency at Redfern and I suspect having held up that grand prize last year has only made emulating the achievement in 2015 more desirable.
Who will win this? No idea… but I can confidently predict it will be entertaining!
The next few weeks - in fact the next 26 rounds - will offer everything we all love about rugby league. Length of the field tries, powerful, barnstorming tackles, debutants we will be hailing as the next Joey Johns, Brad Fittler or Sterlo. Superstars who will go through form slumps but emerge triumphantly at the end to remind us all why they are champions in the first place. And drama… yes there will be plenty of it. I just hope for the sake of the players and the game it's drama on the field and not off it.
Speaking of drama, make sure you watch The Footy Show every Thursday this season on Channel 9. All your fun, favourite segments are back, plus some great new ones! We will be talking lots of footy – covering the big issues, and the not so big issues… but if it makes Big Marn angry then it deserves airtime, right?!
The Sunday Footy Show is also back, bigger than ever, for your weekend dose of NRL analysis, review and preview of the round. I'll also being doing my best to keep you informed on Nine News, The Today Show and Mornings!
Welcome to season 2015! I hope everyone enjoys the footy this year and I can't wait to see you around the grounds… xx