There is nowhere to hide in Round 1 of the NRL Telstra Premiership.
No amount of endless sand dunes, team-building bootcamps, houses trained down or pre-season hype can hide what happens on the field when the bright lights are shining and the muscles are burning.
It is the ultimate litmus test, an honesty session like no other.
The Panthers went into their game with the Dragons as overwhelming favourites and top of the list of premiership contenders. But they were completely out enthused, outmuscled and outplayed by a determined and committed Red V outfit, going down 42-10.
It was a result few saw coming (not one of NRL.com's expert tipsters picked it, and it cost me a perfect round).
This was a Dragons side written off as little more than cannon fodder for the rest of the competition, but they proved there are no easy games in the NRL Telstra Premiership. Reputation won't earn you two competition points.
History shows a big Round 1 loss is not the end of the world though.
In the last six seasons, only twice has the team that eventually won the grand final actually won in Round 1. On three occasions the eventual premiers were beaten by 12 points or more in the opening round of the season. Two of those were 18 points or more!
The Rabbitohs in 2014 and Storm in 2012 are the only two premiers in the last six years to win their Round 1 match in their premiership year.
In 2016 the Sharks were beaten by the Cowboys, the year before the Cowboys themselves were smashed 28-4 by the Roosters in Townsville – and still went on to claim a historic premiership, while in 2013 the Roosters were beaten by 18 points by bitter rivals South Sydney.
For a youthful Panthers team packed full of exciting potential, their big opening round loss might just be the tonic they need after an off-season full of hype.
There's no need for any team to hit the panic button just yet.
Round 1 results of eventual Premiers
2016 – Sharks lost to Cowboys 20-14
2015 – Cowboys lost to Roosters 28-4
2014 – Rabbitohs won 28-8 against Roosters
2013 – Roosters lost to Rabbitohs 28-10
2012 – Melbourne won 24-19 against Raiders
2011 – Manly lost to Storm 18-6
Cowboys and Raiders live up to hype
While some teams failed to live up to off-season expectations, others thrived. The Cowboys and Raiders have been billed as two of the best teams in the competition and they didn't disappoint with a thriller in Townsville to open the season. Reigning Dally M Medalist Jason Taumalolo ran for a whopping 295 metres, while the Raiders back five all ran for over 100 metres – even without vital cogs Jack Wighton and Jarrod Croker.
The Cowboys finally came away with the two competition points thanks to an amazing golden point finish, but the Raiders will take plenty of positives away after finishing the game with just 32 per cent possession.
GI's injury a blow for all fans
You don't have to be a Rabbitohs, Queensland or Australian fan to be disappointed with the ACL injury to Greg Inglis. There are few better sights in the game than a fit 'GI' in full flight. It is a massive blow to the Cardinal and Myrtle who will do it tough without their inspirational fullback. But it is also a blow to rugby league fans the world over who love watching one of the absolute champions of the game weaving his destructive magic. It was a sad sight to see Inglis a passenger on Friday night.
The Storm have shown it is possible to lose a player of Billy Slater's calibre early in the season and still make the grand final, but it will certainly leave a massive hole in Michael Maguire's team, especially with halfback Adam Reynolds still out of action.
Roosters show potential
The Tricolours roared into the 2017 Telstra Premiership with a 40 minute statement to the rest of the competition. At half-time they led the Titans 28-0 with Mitchell Pearce and Luke Keary looking sharp, while the monster-sized Roosters across the park proved an irresistible combination. There is still a lot of improvement left in the side, which threatened to buckle in the second half, but they showed more than enough to prove they'll be a force this season after a disastrous 2016 campaign.
Bring on the Queensland derby in Round 2
Here we go again.
Forget State of Origin, the modern-day rivalry between the Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys is the best thing rugby league has going at the moment.
Epic finals encounters, one of the best grand finals of all time and multiple golden point games to boot. This series of matches between two Queensland clubs has showcased everything that is great about our game.
And it's on again Friday night of Round 2.
It started with the 2015 finals series where the Broncos hung on to beat the Cowboys 16-12 in an epic encounter. It continued with one of the greatest NRL Grand Finals ever played, with Johnathan Thurston's field goal icing the most dramatic of deciders in golden point. The following match was decided by a 40 metre Anthony Milford golden point field goal.
We thought it couldn't get better, any more dramatic.
Then Thurston replied in the rematch, with a field goal of his own, before their last outing in the finals was another thriller finished off by Michael Morgan, thanks to a Thurston flick pass.
Both teams are coming off hard fought wins in the opening round and will be pumped up for a blockbuster Friday night encounter at Suncorp Stadium.
Let's do it all again!
Wolfpack start super campaign
The Toronto Wolfpack started their campaign to enter the UK Super League with a dominant 76-0 rout over London Skolars at the weekend with former NRL star Fuifui Moimoi scoring a hat-trick.
It was a historic start for Canada's first professional rugby league team, they are hoping to advance straight out of the third division on their journey to enter the top flight. Learn more about the Wolfpack.