Bring on the NRL 2013

20:26, Nov 15 2012

Despite kick-off being more than four months away, the NRL PR machine is in overdrive, hyping up fans like an unopened can of Coke.  

But our rugby players, on the other hand, are meandering aimlessly through Europe like the Viking barbarians of old, pillaging the helpless but with no real desire to stay and rule.

And this has highlighted to me the one good thing about rugby league's international competition being so weak. Instead of fans having to regularly switch allegiances between local, regional and national teams, we can focus on a single tournament and trophy, similar to the way NFL and NBA are seen as the pinnacle of their sports.

It also means the fans get a decent off-season to refresh before they gorge themselves again on a diet of non-stop footy from March to September.

But the ever-extending rugby season, following on from the euphoric Rugby World Cup, has left me completely uninterested in the All Blacks' current northern tour. Given the men in black are now well accepted as one of the greatest sides ever, and they've thrown off the four-yearly world cup monkey, it means they almost have nothing to play for except pride.

Until they go through a period of real struggle and loss, time-poor punters like me aren't going to engage with the All Blacks, because their success is verging on the banal.


On the other hand, league is throwing up some delectable storylines for 2013. The potential match-up of a Sonny Bill Williams and James Maloney Roosters side, against the reinvigorated New Zealand Warriors will get most fans salivating.

But that's only one of many exciting possibilities looming for next season. How will Israel Folau go? Will the Brisbane Broncos become a major force again with Scott Prince as their half? And will Benji Marshall find his hotstep again at five-eight under a new coach, or will he take the money and run off to Japan early? And can the reigning premiers and minor premiers still remain strong with all this extra competition?

This season was a bad year for a number of the well-heeled clubs like Parramatta, Sydney and Newcastle.

But with the wily Ricky Stuart mentoring the Eels, the Roosters boosted by a new SBW-aided roster and the Knights starting to get their head around Wayne Bennett's theories, it makes the Matt Elliot's job that much harder given he's yet to add any significant signings to his team sheet.

He will also have the added challenge of embedding in new structures, new back-room staff and adapting to new facilities. It's way too early to make any predictions, but with so many exciting enhancements to the NRL, any thoughts I had of not renewing my membership have been quickly forgotten. And I don't even mind if I'm watching a losing Warriors side, given some of the talent from over the ditch that will be gracing Mt Smart or Eden Park's fair fields.

The NRL 2013 season can't come soon enough.

Auckland Now