Big League: Golden era for the game

I’ve noticed a trend recently that has really got me feeling my age.

Full disclosure – in real life I’m young and sprightly, but in rugby league terms I’m definitely in the back-end of my career and soon will hit the twilight years, if you catch my drift.

It started this year while putting together the NRL Season Guide. All of a sudden, first grade players are born in years I can actually remember in vivid detail. Then came the feature stories on this year’s pack of rookies. Their idols range from Cameron Smith to Johnathan Thurston to even Shaun Johnson, who made his NRL debut in 2011.

Thurston is on the verge of his 300th game in the NRL and I think it’s so cool that I’ll get to tell my future kids that I interviewed him and followed his career right from the start.

He’ll go down as one of the best to have ever played the game – as will guys like Smith, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and so on – leading me to the conclusion that I am definitely living in one of the golden eras of the game.

Naturally, this line of thought will lead to plenty of ire from people who disagree, because they lived through a “better” (though I just call different) era. I would’ve loved to see the legends of the 1970s and early '80s in the flesh, but I guess I’ll have to resign myself to hearing stories and watching grainy clips on YouTube.

The point is, there’s nothing like the moment in time you grew up in to give you rose-coloured glasses about the players and clubs you got to see run around. Lucky for the young kids coming through the grades, they get to see some very special talent!

And another thing… We cop a bit of flack at Big League for our statistics-based features. A few weeks ago when we looked at which Origin teams would have been picked purely based on 2017 stats, there were some surprise names who came out on top – which of course led to plenty of eye-rolling from footy fans.

But the point of these stories is to put things in black and white – and as we know in rugby league, things can be very grey.

We have a great feature in this week’s magazine about the evolution of statistics in rugby league and how they are used by clubs and their coaches in the present. It makes for interesting reading and proves you can’t hide behind numbers.

The Round 16  issue of Big League is on sale now at newsagents, supermarkets, at the ground and via www.magsonline.com.au/big-league