The simple cure for heartache this NRL season

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The Sharks looking dejected during the round 25 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Cronulla Sharks. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Colin Whelan

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We’ve all got a story that could define a heartbreaking moment for us. In the sporting realm heartbreak comes in many shapes and forms. It could be an injury to a key player or a crushing defeat to a formidable rival. Maybe that’s why we love sport so much.

In sport we bear witness to heart-wrenching stories and it’s something that can be shared. That said though, sporting heartache can be cured using a simple five-word remedy: “There is always next season.”

Yes, these five magical words have saved many a fan from the downward spiral of shame after losing a grand final or bowing out of the season early.

That’s what’s great about sport – no matter the score at the end of the game, your position on the ladder or the way you competed in the finals, these things won’t matter come next season.

Nobody ever remembers the losers like they do the winners, and even for the winners there is the dread of knowing you could have been heartbroken if not for some luck and a small amount of talent.

So how does this make the 2012 NRL season better? Well, if you are a Warriors fan then you’ve only had a short amount of time to deal with your despair. You were so close but honestly so far away.

The Warriors rode the luck wagon all the way to the grand final last year and came up short against a Manly outfit who were clearly the better side from the beginning.

Although just because you are a Manly fan doesn’t mean you are a stranger to our friend ‘despair’. After winning the grand final you celebrated only until the best coach you’ve ever had was kicked out by a management team who were so caught up in their own paranoia they didn’t realise the consequences of their actions.

This left most of your players wondering how it will work in 2012. Being last year’s Premiers means nothing this year.

Some teams deal with heartbreak using change. Penrith blew up everything and started again with a new sponsor, a new general manager and a new coach.

In the madness of these dramatic changes they forgot that come round one this year they will be fielding the same players who were heartbroken from round 26 last year. Will they be hungry enough?

Other teams, like the Tigers and Storm, live and die knowing there is always next season. Both these teams know what they had last year was good and if not for some bad luck they might have gone further, which means dramatic change isn’t necessarily the way.

The end of the season doesn’t have to be an automatic disappointment if you don’t make the finals. Look at the Bulldogs.

They went from having a second-rate coach in 2012 (Jim Dymock) to having the 2011 premiership-winning coach (Des Hasler) less than one month after the season finished.

It’s true the side hasn’t changed much but there’s still reason for optimism. Dessie’s known for turning chicken feed into chicken salad.

For most of the teams who crowded the basement of the ladder, last season’s heartbreak lasted the longest. Teams like Canberra have been dealing with this depression for a long time.

Even the promise of a new season doesn’t bring light to any tunnels, especially knowing your dreams ride on your fullback Josh Dugan and five-eighth Terry Campese, who are top of the list for injury-related heartbreak.

Another team who are looking to shake off the 2011 black dog has to be the Roosters. They’ve gone out and signed, well, nobody really. Which means their upper management are already saying the five word remedy before this season has even started.

Although just because you sign a bunch of big name players, like Nate Myles and Jamal Idris, doesn’t redeem you of a woeful season, especially when you don’t have a five-eighth and your halfback was statistically the worst in the competition last year.

The Titans went and bought plenty of speed and size but forgot about playmaking. That’s heartbreaking in itself.

Some teams deal with heartache the way they have every year – by gambling. South Sydney and Parramatta are gambling in 2012. Both teams put their bets on small halfbacks, rookie coaches and a combination of players that have continually let them down. Gambles like this will only lead to mid-table heartbreak (at best).

What’s better, knowing your season is dead before round 26 or having to wait until the final round just to get confirmation?

What about teams who constantly tease you with a finals berth only to never deliver? That’s what the Cowboys have been doing since 2005.

We have to hold off saying JT is the best halfback in our game until he can take his team the whole way and not be a huge part in their elongated heartache for any given season.

Speaking of elongated heartache, this year Cronulla are doing everything to prevent another basement party. This includes signing a player who gets a tattoo every time he is in the newspapers no matter the reason.

Let me ask you this question Cronulla, why do you continually pick up other teams’ scraps?

Nobody wanted Todd Carney. Canberra and the Roosters didn’t want him, why did you? Do you truly believe he will be the defibrillator to your constant heartbreak?

In saying this not all teams were heartbroken at the end of 2011. One team in particular had more to celebrate at the end of the season than they did while they were playing it.

After every loss last year and their elimination from the semi-finals, every Novocastrian had one thing to say. “Just wait till next year.”

Now, the wait is over and it comes down to this – will 2012 be another year where Newcastle fans are waiting patiently for the next season, or will it be their time to smile?

As far as St George and Brisbane go, I believe they have the biggest reasons to mourn the 2011 season. This was their chance to do something that nobody could believe possible.

For one team it included the fairy-tale ending for their longest running player. For another it was a chance to go back-to-back and be part of history.

I couldn’t imagine a more heartbreaking scene than having these two desperate teams face off against each other like they did last year in the finals. I’m not saying these two teams aren’t finals-worthy but I believe they will be struck again by misery come September.

Sporting heartache can make or break teams. Rugby league is so unpredictable and no team should ever been written off until the final whistle.

No matter what the outcome though, some form of misery will eventuate, even for the winners who know they have to work harder the next season to defend their happiness.

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