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The wet weather at Belmore for Bulldogs v Storm wasn't enough to dampen NRL fans' spirits. The footy was back!

When I was a little girl, no older than five, my only relationship with rugby league was diligently collecting empty cans on the hill at Wade Park at Orange CYMS home games. 

We stored them in big bags in the shed and when I had enough I would sell them back to the recycling place for $2 or so. At least I think I did. Either that or my parents were running some kind of clean-up sting on their baby girl. Probably the latter. 

Somewhere in the next five years I would fall in love with the game and it would come to envelop my entire life. It's my hobby, my job, my favourite pastime and something I talk about every single day. Fox Sports' new 24-hour league channel could be the worst thing to happen to my social life since Netflix hit Australia. 

But if I'm honest, my excitement levels didn't reach their usual heights ahead of Round 1 this year. Sure, I got a little thrill putting my tips in, sorting out my NRL Fantasy team (I scored the highest points in my league, thanks for asking), but something wasn't clicking for me.

I realised the damage a few bad eggs had caused to my enthusiasm for rugby league, and what a shame that is.  

The truth is, for the handful of negative headlines that have bombarded us recently, including banned-substance use, domestic violence, gambling on NRL games - three of the most serious blights on the game - there are hundreds of acts that go unnoticed. 

Literally hundreds of good stories every single week. 

I know of players who buy groceries for struggling families and pay for children's cancer treatments, of players who volunteer every week at homeless shelters and beg the media not to report it. There are players out there who do little things that go unnoticed, because they don't want the attention. 

Luckily, working for Big League allows me to celebrate all the great things in rugby league - the good stories and the analysis of the game. And maybe that's why I got so annoyed. I know the majority of players are well-behaved, dedicated family men who just happen to be good at sport. 

Believe it or not, my mood of disenchantment lasted all of a minute. A trip to Belmore cured me. 

Tucked under an umbrella on the hill to celebrate a friend's birthday, I got the friendly reminder I so desperately needed. While the brave 8,711 others were catching their deaths in the torrential rain, I was catching some serious rugby league inspo. 

It wasn't the quality of the game that particularly revived me, nor the horrendous weather. It was being back on a hill with friends, laughing at the circumstances, listening to the hits and being close enough to the players you can smell the wet grass. 

It was being there with devoted fans who felt every tackle, every mistake and every try like a bolt through the chest. It reminded me of being wrapped in a poncho watching Group 9 games and being bedridden and snotty for the next few days. Of knowing which canteens have the best steak sandwiches and when to order a hot milo to be safe.

After a week of bad headlines, it was a classic old hill that reminded me of why this game is a lifestyle. It turns out I've always loved it.

Bring on 2017!

Twitter: @pamelawhaley

The Round 2 issue of Big League is on sale now at newsagents and at the ground. Digital version also available through Apple iTunes, Google Play or

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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