So, just 13* sleeps now until Round 1.
Round 1, that is, of the 2017 NRL Premiership sponsored by the excellent telephonic services company Telstra (whose tagline isn’t “Telstra! Join us and have more conversations with Filipino people than Douglas McCarthur” but should be), and the joint is ready to rumble.
Rumble? Yes, rumble, baby. It’s rugby league. It rumbles. And the people who play it are the world’s foremost rumble merchants. The Merchants of Rumble. I like it.
American football, high-speed hockey on ice, even old cousin Rah-Rah, these pastimes can boast some serious hombres and bad-ass-men who can cause their fellow humans a great deal of physical pain.
But rugby league.
Only rugby league has such a plethora of rough and tumble rumble people. And if you like big humans running very quickly at other big humans, then rugby league is the game for you.
Consider Shannon Boyd of Canberra Raiders. A giant well-muscled man-beast, he could rumble up guts for Australia, and has. He’s like the ‘Swede’ in Heartbreak Ridge, old mate with the muscles who tells Clint Eastwood that he’s going to rip his head off and do a poo in his neck.
And then Clint Eastwood blocks the Swede’s haymaker and bops him hard on the jaw, and all the other Marines, led by Corporal ‘Stitch’ Jones (Mario van Peebles) became immediately obedient.
And it’s a pretty good film, if a little gung-ho about celebrating the glorious defeat of Grenada.
Anyway. Shannon Boyd would bash the shit out of Clint Eastwood. This ain’t Hollywood, pal. Cop that. Whack. And then Clint would down.
And so would you.
Say you’re standing on a corner and waiting for a traffic light to change and minding your own business, thinking about the difference between Doritos and CCs, say, or whether Donald Trump may one day actually launch nuclear weapons at South Korea and/or Australia, and you’re just standing there, musing, in space.
Well, if Shannon Boyd had a 20-metre run-up and ran into you full tilt, if he just, you know, decided to take a 20m run-up and charge directly at you and smash into you, then it would feel like you’d been run over by Makybe Diva. You would be road kill.
Few years ago I drove around Australia, did the big lap. Outside Carnarvon in Western Australia there was a stretch of road that had more road-kill than you’d see in Tasmania in a year.
There were roos, wombats, sheep, cows, eagles, camels. Camels! So you drive through this channel of death and come out the other side after ten kilometres of carnage, and there, side of the road, with a big smile and two thumbs up – Shannon Boyd.
Ha. No he wasn’t.
But if Shannon Boyd ran over you, you would be like a desiccated dead camel in Carnarvon.
Because rugby league.
Rugby league is big man-animals running into other big man-animals, and thundering about, and sweat-spray and jolting collisions and froth and bother.
It’s bloody great, rugby league.
And if those crazy Poms had taken some time to harness the beast that was Sam Burgess and actually given him a decent amount of time to learn the bloody game he could’ve been a barrel-chested and quicker version of the late, great Jerry Collins.
Anyway! Rugby league isn’t all camel-killing Clint bashers. No. There’s super-high skill by super high-skill exponents. There’s craftiness and guile and fine, soft and delicate hands from jockey-sized sneaky people Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith and Josh Hodgson.
There’s ridiculous acrobatics by men who can fly in the air.
Benji Marshall can’t really rip off that mid-air sidestep any more but he’ll still suck them into Suncorp because he is who he is, the funkiest hep-cat the game’s ever seen.
Well, until Roger Tuivasa-Sheck came along and shot off both feet at the same time. How about his party move: he runs at the opposition, square on, hops into the air, wobbles his head with his tongue out, and as he’s coming down decides which foot he’ll shoot off from. And then he does. And you can’t tell which foot he’s stepped off until he’s gone past you with his tongue out.
He kills ‘em, Roger.
There’s a kid called Kalyn Ponga who in highlight reels looks like he’s beating an entire team of orange witches hats.
There’s Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana who’ve formed a better right-wing combination than Donald Trump and Fox News.
There’s Greg Inglis and Matt Moylan and Jimmy-Teddy Tedesco whose feet could power a speedboat. Instead of an outboard motor you could sit Teddy on the back, facing backwards, feet in the water, and tickle him. You could tow a troupe of water-skiers.
There’s Jarryd ‘Hayne Plane and/or Train’ Hayne who’s so good he played in the NFL. He can do anything, Hayne Plane. He’ll fill stadiums like Springsteen.
There’s Val Holmes and Jason Taumalolo who flirted with America. Hayne may now be off to French rugby. Ben Barba already is.
Rugby league continues to produce these people, purpose-built athletes who can find other purposes. Kevin Sheedy thought he could turn a couple into Australian rules players. That didn’t work. But they’ve both gone OK elsewhere.
And here we are.
And rugby league continues to power on. The game is indefatigable, invincible. You could cut rugby league’s head off and it’d still cart the ball up into the middle of the ruck, and play the ball, and sub off after 20 minutes of big sweat man-action. And there on the bench rugby league would sit, the steam of sweat rising off it like London fog, itching to get back out there and mix it up again.
Because rugby league.
*Thanks Jason. I’m a dolt.