WIZ: After too many clouds, NRL awaiting Sonny days
Sonny Bill Williams speaks to media. AAP Image/Damian Shaw
It has been a wretched time for league fans since our game was hijacked by the Crime Commission – we have been robbed of the game’s traditional pre-season hype and hope.
The Wizard has always loved the air of expectation from the clubs and the fans as we approach a new competition.
Who has had the best build-up? Can the premiers go back-to-back? Are last year’s pop-guns about to shed that tag and return as heavy artillery?
Instead rugby league has been shrouded in clouds of fear and uncertainty, even though no-one has actually been named, let alone found guilty of any wrong-doing.
I realise some good might eventually come from these investigations but it’s terribly unfair. Depressing is probably a better word to describe it.
Anyway, enough about that, it’s time to get excited.
I cannot wait for the season kick-off and there is one game in particular that is highlighted on my footy fixture card. Round six, Roosters versus Bulldogs on Friday, April 12 at Allianz.
SBW v the Doggies. It won’t get any bigger or better than that.
I reckon the venue manager should go hunting for the ‘Ground Full’ sign already. Is there a league fan who would not have some interest in this game?
No doubt, Sonny Bill Williams is going to have a mighty impact on the Roosters and the NRL this year. He is a wonderful athlete, supremely gifted in both league and union, and he goes pretty well as a boxer on the side.
I watched him in action against Francois Botha last week. This guy is a super competitor, he has an awesome physique into the bargain, and he’s as big a crowd magnet as you will find anywhere on the planet.
When he lines up against his former club it’s going to be big. Maybe not from the players’ point of view – there is a new crop of Dogs since he walked out of Belmore in July 2008 – but the supporters will give him everything they’ve got.
Honestly, I can’t wait for this one. I’d walk to the joint if I had to.
While on SBW, we know he can handle himself in the ring. So has Sharks’ star Paul Gallen.
Wouldn’t it be sensational watching these guys fight a charity bout a couple of weeks after the grand final?
The sports public and maybe The Childrens Hospital could be handsome winners if such a promotion came off.
There are a few other things on The Wizard’s mind as we fasten our seat belts for 2013:
* I loved the Indigenous v NRL All Stars game, especially the cameos from Jonathan Thurston and Greg Inglis. If JT plays like that for the maturing Cowboys, this could be their breakthrough year for sure.
* I hardly noticed the referees in that game. If that’s an indication of how the officiating will be under new boss Daniel Anderson, I’m rapt. This year, referees will undoubtedly make mistakes – just like the players – but I liked what I saw. Some instinctive, decision-making and not an over-reliance on the man upstairs. And their profile was generally low-key, as it should be.
* One wonders how some of the coaches are going to handle almost unbearable pressure, week-after-week, in the 2013 comp. I see the men under most pressure as Steve Price (Dragons), Mick Potter (Tigers), Trent Robinson (Roosters) and Matthew Elliot (Warriors).
OK, so now you know The Wizard is back on duty at The Roar. Watch for my column every Friday.
I’ll give you plenty of food for thought and, even though you’ll agree with me 99 per cent of the time, your comments are more than welcome.
Gary 'Wiz' Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joined The Roar in 2012 as an expert rugby league columnist, and continues in 2013.
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