Now that both the grand final and State of Origin are thankfully out of the way we can settle back and focus on what I think is the highlight of the rugby league calendar.
I refer here, of course, to the silly season, or what’s left of it for this year. That time of year when the sporting blogs and pages are filled with lies, allegations, denials, speculation, fake news, scandal and the occasional fact.
Just to clarify, the silly season was sadly once confined to the period between the grand final and Round 1 of the following season. This was clearly far too limiting, and it’s a credit to the vision of Peter Vlandys that it’s now been expanded to run between 1 January and 31 December each year, so the 2020 season is nearly done.
Unlike the grand final and Origin, the silly season is where coaches, players, officials and us miserable fans can all compete on an even footing. It doesn’t take much talent or imagination to start a rumour regarding, say, a player transfer, or a drunken night out, and we can all take photos and videos and upload them if we see something scandalous.
If necessary, if you want to get involved, just download some photo shop software and make it up. You won’t be the first.
For silly season beginners, it’s traditional that each season has at least one sex tape scandal, preferably coming to light just before the season kick off, so charge your phones and get cracking. Anything to do with drugs, performance enhancing or otherwise, is also very popular, so full credit goes to those players already ticking boxes here.
Domestic violence or other assaults are another favourite, and are always guaranteed to grab the headlines for months after the event, until the case is inevitably thrown out of court. I think we can safely assume that the players won’t let us down here. They haven’t before.
We all know that media coverage is vital to maintain the NRL’s growing profile, and can sometimes be hard to come by now that mad Monday celebrations have been ruined by the bubble, so we should take time here to acknowledge both Jack De Belin and Jarryd Hayne who have managed to keep the greatest game of all on the front pages and in the news.
Coach movements are one of the silly season’s staples of course, but I’m not sure that the current batch will provide us with any joy at this early stage. It’s not really until after a handful of games have been played, and we hear the club chairman saying that “coach X has our full confidence and support”, that we can really get our tongues and keyboards wagging.
2020 was a bonanza for coach resignations and sackings, and I expect 2021 to be just as entertaining. Some early favourites that should be monitored closely are the always affable Wests man manager Michael Maguire; the Sharks John Morris, who would be best advised to keep his suitcase packed; and Broncos good ole boy Kevin Walters, who increasingly reminds me of the guy handing out the lime cordial at Jonestown.
My personal silly season favourite though has to be the players game of musical chairs. There’s just nothing to compare with it.
If you look closely, we currently have a lot of players moving around and it’s only when the music stops that we can start picking our preferred team squads, wonder what the hell our club recruiters were thinking, and begin criticising our club’s underperforming and over paid players.
Oh, that reminds me, does any club out there want to sign Corey Norman? Anyone?
In reality, every member of every club’s squad is constantly on the move and contracts, verbal undertakings and media releases really don’t mean a thing.
Some of the highlights of the 2020 season so far are:
Josh Addo-Carr, who is now well advanced in his grand summer tour of the training facilities of all clubs on the eastern seaboard so that he can pick one Sydney-based club to move to, for family reasons.
I haven’t got the heart to tell him yet that Newcastle isn’t a suburb of Sydney. I also haven’t got the heart to tell him that Melbourne won’t be releasing him from his contract early, so he’ll be playing out of Bleak City once again this season.
Jason Saab, who has pulled off a major financial coup by having the Dragons release him to Manly on the grounds that it was too far to travel to Wollongong each day from his home at Blacktown.
This is a great cost cutting move by Saab, as he’ll now shave around 30 minutes off his travel time each day, depending on traffic conditions around the Spit Bridge. I wonder what he’ll do when he finds out that nearby Penrith and Parramatta both have NRL teams?
The Warriors have finally come to their senses and realised that star recruit Addin Fonua-Blake can’t possibly get into enough trouble by himself in Auckland, Tamworth, or wherever they’re living next season, so apparently they now have Matt Lodge in their recruitment sights to lend him a hand.
What can go wrong?
In a sign of the times of our increasingly digital world, Gareth Widdop, currently holed up in quarantine at The Travelodge, is now advertising his NRL availability, preferred contract arrangements and jersey size on eBay. Club recruiters looking for a last minute Christmas bargain are reminded that bidding ceases at 9 am next Thursday.
So the 2020 silly season is nearly done and dusted, and what a year it’s been. I’m sure these last few weeks of the season will continue to provide us with the entertainment we crave, and more importantly, I know that the 2021 silly season promises to be the best yet.