I can remember one of my earliest heartbreaks like it was yesterday.
The year was 2004. I was a 16-year-old who was born and bred in Belmore, so naturally I lived, breathed and constantly talked about the Bulldogs. I owned enough memorabilia to open my own merch store and I cut pictures out of The Daily Telegraph and Big League to put into my yearly scrapbook (this was in addition to my Dawson's Creek scrapbook).
As you can imagine, being a Bulldogs fan in 2004 had its extremely low lows followed by the ultimate high at the end of the season. But that's not what I'm here to talk about.
One day in July, I flipped to the back page of my dad's daily paper, as I did every day, to find out Steve Price, one of my heroes and Bulldogs captain, was leaving the club to go to the Warriors.
I was shocked. Devastated. Inconsolable. A teenage girl, which didn't help keep the emotion in check.
Of course, I'm much older and wiser now. The scrapbooks eventually went the way of sending mail and four-way phone calls on the house phone. Going through actual hard life stuff started to put things into perspective. Working in the industry took the one-eyed, emotional, heart-on-the-sleeve glasses away and I'm now very practical about pretty much everything in the game, including player movements.
But I'll always remember the heartbreak.
Rugby league fans are some of the most passionate, parochial people I've ever met. It's what makes this game so great but what can ultimately lead to anger and betrayal you take very personally.
I know it will be hard for all fans watching the current player transfer dramas unfold day after day. We've all been there and lived it.
I have a mantra for when things like this happen. Everyone reading this right now has no doubt followed rugby league for a long time and we should know what is always true – everything happens for a reason.
It's trite and boring but there's another superstar waiting in the wings. There's a brilliant combination about to form. There's salary cap money for a big replacement. There may be some temporary pain – even a few years of lows – but it's footy and things right themselves and everything will be good again.
The Bulldogs eventually welcomed Michael Ennis not long before James Graham hit Australian shores. And everything was all right again.
And another thing…
We've got a great story in the mag this week with Nathan Peats, who credits his partner and son for getting him through his long and arduous lay-offs with injuries. He's a great character of the field and his honesty is very refreshing!
The Round 9 issue of Big League featuring stories on Nathan Peats, Coen Hess and the spirit within the Wests Tigers is on sale now at newsagents, supermarkets, at the ground and via www.magsonline.com.au/big-league.