Breathe, NRL fans: February is finally here

Adam Bagnall Roar Guru

59 Have your say

    February is upon us and the rugby league season is here. Well, kind of. Close enough.

    It’s the month of grainy footage of pre-season trial matches that you salivate over simply because you can’t stand any more T20 cricket – in my humble opinion, a dumbed down version of the game for those with limited attention spans.

    You look forward to trials because it’s actual footage of players playing. Your new recruit is running around for ten minutes or so, and it produces a strange feeling from within.

    It’s footy, so you want your team to win, but it’s also just a trial, so the scoreline doesn’t really matter. But it still kind of does – you don’t want your team getting thumped, even with nothing on the line.

    Secretly you just want the team to come through unscathed.

    Hull FC and Wigan are in town for a couple of games and, as I was having breakfast in North Wollongong earlier this week, I saw some footy-ish guys at the beach. They were quite fit and joking around. They could have been Wigan Warriors, or Hull FC. Hell, they could have easily been the Dapto Canaries.

    After a long summer of cricket, February is really a transitional month. The cricket is winding down, the Big Bash has thankfully ended, and focus turns to the winter codes of AFL and NRL. Sure, there’s also Super Rugby but that competition isn’t a major headline-grabber.

    There’s a feast of footy on this month with the Cauldron, otherwise known as Ringrose Park, hosting Parramatta and North Sydney on February 8. Will Jarryd Hayne make his return to the Eels in this one? Is Ringrose Park big enough to hold his ego? Time will tell.

    Jarryd Hayne Gold Coast Titans NRL Rugby League 2016 b

    (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    Wigan and Hull FC do battle at WIN Stadium on Saturday, February 10. Do yourself a favour and grab some Chicko’s before the game. Or spend $10 for a couple of dodgy-looking chicken tenders and a handful of chips inside the ground. The choice is yours.

    February 17 rolls around and the floodgates open, with a double-header at ANZ Stadium featuring the Dragons and Hull FC at 5:30pm, followed by South Sydney and Wigan at 7:45pm and the chance for Random Souths Guy to make his 2018 debut – but you can bet it won’t be here. You’re more likely to see him somewhere like Rotorua Stadium when the Storm and Warriors do battle.

    In all, there are eight trials taking place that day and we’ll love every second of bad footage we can get. We’ll curse and cheer via hashtags and Rabbitohs fans will be claiming another March premiership.

    Meanwhile, should the Dragons fall in any game, the inevitable chokers tag will be rolled out, and calls to Oust Doust will grow louder, even though the man has in fact ousted himself.

    The month rounds out with a Cameron Smith/Johnathan Thurston testimonial game on February 23 followed by more trials in PNG, Belmore and of course the rugby league heartland of Mudgee for the annual Charity Shield.


    Check out The Roar’s full NRL trial schedule for details.

    The New South Wales State of Origin team for the 2018 series remains a mystery, with new coach Brad Fittler facing plenty of selection headaches. So we want you to tell us - and all your mates - who should start for Blues in Game 1 with our team picker.

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    The Crowd Says (59)

    • February 7th 2018 @ 6:02am
      Maddi Still said | February 7th 2018 @ 6:02am | ! Report

      Wigan vs Hull in Wollongong? Not too many Northern Englishmen reside in Wollongong no wonder your pleading for people to go.

      • Roar Guru

        February 7th 2018 @ 8:05am
        The Barry said | February 7th 2018 @ 8:05am | ! Report

        Get a life, loser

      • February 7th 2018 @ 9:21am
        Duncan Smith said | February 7th 2018 @ 9:21am | ! Report

        Hi Maddi, Did you hear about the Melbourne v Newcastle crowd for their trial game? Zero spectators! The code is dying.

        • February 7th 2018 @ 9:35am
          Beastie said | February 7th 2018 @ 9:35am | ! Report

          Even though it is an official “closed event” as requested by the Storm. Don’t let facts get in the way of a stupid comment though.

          • February 8th 2018 @ 7:04am
            Duncan Smith said | February 8th 2018 @ 7:04am | ! Report


      • February 7th 2018 @ 9:27am
        Adam said | February 7th 2018 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        Good contribution Maddi really adds to the conversation. Appreciate it

        • February 7th 2018 @ 7:08pm
          Justin Kearney said | February 7th 2018 @ 7:08pm | ! Report

          Maddi is special!

          • February 8th 2018 @ 2:00pm
            Maestro said | February 8th 2018 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

            The code is dying if they couldn’t afford the $70K to hire the ground – are there no other rectangular grounds in Melbourne??

      • February 7th 2018 @ 9:28am
        Peter Phelps said | February 7th 2018 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        That is the thing Maddi,

        In Rugby League you don’t have to have been born in the shadows of a club to appreciate the skills and passion in the game. It is something quite exquisite that many other sports just don’t get. Sure there is the tribal thing but then there is the simple love for a fantastic game played well.

        You also have to admire Wigan and Hull for trying to promote the international game by playing one of their domestic fixtures just about as far from home as it is possible to go. There will be quite a lot of Northern Englishmen at that game and I hope a lot of Sydneysiders as well.

        • Roar Guru

          February 7th 2018 @ 9:55am
          Nat said | February 7th 2018 @ 9:55am | ! Report

          Guys, t r o l l s get off when you respond to them. Maddi, the international game ID t r o l l has serious mental issues. He needs help. He’s not mentally capable of understanding the difference between conflict and interaction. Don’t entertain him.

          • February 8th 2018 @ 10:10am
            Fred said | February 8th 2018 @ 10:10am | ! Report

            I am convinced ‘Maddi’ has had a bad experience with a rugby league player and it’s been repressed into his subconscious.

            • February 8th 2018 @ 10:34am
              jimmmy said | February 8th 2018 @ 10:34am | ! Report

              According to Freud he probably has issues with his mother but we won’t go there.

    • February 7th 2018 @ 8:19am
      Leonard said | February 7th 2018 @ 8:19am | ! Report

      Is the real question “Will the crowds be there?” rather than the season being (almost) here?

      • February 7th 2018 @ 9:19am
        Fraser said | February 7th 2018 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        Meh. The crowds are going to be about the same as last year. The NRL isn’t doing much to improve the crowds, and they don’t have much incentive to given they make all their money from the massive TV deals.

        Each to their own, but rather than worry about things I can’t control such as crowd sizes (only small relative to AFL, which is a different sport with a completely different culture so who cares?), ‘corrupt’ referee/bunker decisions, ‘unfair’ Free to Air allocations, salary cap ‘sombreros’, or any of the other topics of outrage, I’d prefer to discuss the awesome footy that we get treated to each week by the brilliant athletes who play the sport.

      • February 7th 2018 @ 9:30am
        Peter Phelps said | February 7th 2018 @ 9:30am | ! Report

        I do hope so. It would be good to show Wigan and Hull (and Leeds in Melbourne) some respect for having travelled all the way to Wollengong to play a domestic match.

    • February 7th 2018 @ 9:13am
      Paul said | February 7th 2018 @ 9:13am | ! Report

      February’s always been a transition month and Adam’s article summed up the situation nicely. We’re going to be “teased” with some games, that should hopefully be good contests, but all we really want is ou best sides to front up for the first premiership round.

      Can’t wait!

    • Roar Guru

      February 7th 2018 @ 9:14am
      Scott Pryde said | February 7th 2018 @ 9:14am | ! Report

      Really looking forward to the trials kicking off. Odd the Melbourne vs Newcastle match this arvo is behind closed doors at AAMI Park to kick things off.

      The other oddity that sticks out to me is the Raiders – they are the only club playing a single trial. Everyone else has at least two.

      The Broncos should be worried as well. They play the Titans, but then have games against QCup sides. Not sure how that’s supposed to prepare them for the season proper.

      As for my Dragons – two full on trials I’d say… As long as we don’t pick up injuries, they will be great opportunities for Widdop/Dufty/Hunt/McInnes to work on combinations.

      • February 7th 2018 @ 9:22am
        jamesb said | February 7th 2018 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        It will be interesting to see how Dufty and Field go this year.

        • February 7th 2018 @ 2:48pm
          Adam Bagnall said | February 7th 2018 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

          I’d have Field on the bench ahead of Mann if Mary decides to carry a utility in the 17. Field has superior speed and would be a nightmare around the ruck and of course can cover any backline position. Mann can too, but doesn’t have the same speed. Imagine Field running onto a late Leilua offload and streaking away

      • February 7th 2018 @ 9:33am
        Peter Phelps said | February 7th 2018 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        I am really looking forward to seeing Melbourne v Leeds next week. I don’t think that Leeds will stand a chance but it will be a serious game for the Storm and a chance to see some of the premier’s new combinations at work. I will be at that one for sure.

      • February 7th 2018 @ 10:57am
        spruce moose said | February 7th 2018 @ 10:57am | ! Report

        It’s gonna be strange at the Dragons

        Widdop was a revelation at fullback for England, while Hunt was a much better hooker than halfback at the Broncos.

        Now they are both going back to 6 and 7 for the Dragons….

        I can’t see us making the 8.

        • Roar Guru

          February 7th 2018 @ 11:07am
          Scott Pryde said | February 7th 2018 @ 11:07am | ! Report

          I can Spruce, but not by much. We are going to be somewhere between 7th and 10th.

          Widdop and Hunt should combine solidly enough.

          • February 7th 2018 @ 4:03pm
            Albo said | February 7th 2018 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

            Not sure the 6 & 7 combine much these days ? Nowadays they are generally either side of the ruck. And I think Widdop & Hunt both prefer the left side, which they will need to get sorted out early on ? One of them will need to be the dominant playmaker calling the shots, or McInnes won’t know if he’s Arthur or Martha at dummy half ! It will be interesting to see who Mary wants to actually run the show, the incumbent or the new guy ?

        • February 8th 2018 @ 10:36am
          jimmmy said | February 8th 2018 @ 10:36am | ! Report

          I think the Dragons will go up a couple of places. Hunt / Widdop looks a good combo to me. Might just take a little while to click though.

    • February 7th 2018 @ 9:37am
      Jeff dustby said | February 7th 2018 @ 9:37am | ! Report

      Don’t know why you think the dragons have a chokers tag?

      • February 7th 2018 @ 2:50pm
        Adam Bagnall said | February 7th 2018 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

        We’ve been labelled that by “experts” who have nothing better to do. We did lose 4 GF’s in the 90’s but were good enough to get to 4 GF’s in a decade, quite an achievement, and we probably missed an opportunity 2004-06 when we had arguably the best team in the comp

        • February 7th 2018 @ 4:07pm
          Greg Ambrose said | February 7th 2018 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

          Saints were up against superior rosters , clearly , in the 90’s Grand Finals. I’ve always thought Walford could have caught the Pearl in his long distance try if he was fair dinkum but I doubt if the result would be different if he did.

        • February 7th 2018 @ 6:54pm
          RandyM said | February 7th 2018 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

          99 could be considered a choke. Coming off a convincing win over minor premiers the Sharks. Mundine in career best form… well we all know what happened in the big dance.

          the other 3 grand finals though, The Dragons were probably lucky to even be there

          • February 8th 2018 @ 1:22pm
            Greg Ambrose said | February 8th 2018 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

            Some may consider 99 a choke, that may have some truth to it. Mundine has long been criticised for not passing and trying to score himself. It’s all very well after the event but I think it was a valid call by him to put the ball down for a try , he was close to the line and would clearly have good reason to think he would score. Passing is a risk in itself and there was a chance the defender would try to knock the ball down. If he did pass and something went wrong then for sure it would be said that he should have just put the ball down for a simple try.

            Ironically if he hadn’t ducked under an attempted high shot while trying to score it might have been him getting a penalty try .

    • Roar Guru

      February 7th 2018 @ 9:42am
      Nat said | February 7th 2018 @ 9:42am | ! Report

      Well written Adam. The BBL “attention span” and Hayne’s ego lines gave me laugh. Not doubt Random Souths guy has his jumper primed for another long season, that dude must have some frequent flyer miles. I’m thinking of making the 10hr drive to the thriving metropolis of Theodore this weekend, catch a catty down the weir, watch my Broncos take on the Capras and finish the night at Aust’s only community owned hotel. Living large.

      • Roar Guru

        February 7th 2018 @ 9:56am
        The Barry said | February 7th 2018 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        Random Souths guy was at the Super Bowl…with his best mate!

        • Columnist

          February 8th 2018 @ 8:39am
          Tim Gore said | February 8th 2018 @ 8:39am | ! Report

          No… really?

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