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Love the game like never before: The existential crisis of a new rugby league year and how the old girl needs you more than ever

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Expert
28th January, 2022
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As we crawl toward the 2022 rugby league season, the new COVID world we live in has buckled us into an existential crisis made more apparent by the gaping hole now left by the demise of our annual one-day cricket fix before we swap the white Kookaburra for a Steeden.

We’re still a month away from the next installment of the NRLW – maybe that can recharge our batteries just enough before the Penrith Panthers start their title defence against Manly at BlueBet Stadium on March 10.

While we’ll flood social media with just how pumped we all are that the greatest game of all is back, is it really the same?

If this is the new normal, how exhausted are we all going to be by October again?

Then there’s a World Cup after that.

Are we now living a lie?

Our attention to detail is diminishing and who can blame us?

Damien Cook takes a run in the NRL grand final

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

There’s plenty of other things to worry about these days.

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Little wonder BBL’s television ratings slumped horribly as the season went on and on and on.

There’s an old saying that rugby league is a TV sport. We’d much rather watch from the comfort of our own lounge or the pub. But if given the chance, rugby league needs its fans at venues across the land more than ever.

Rugby league is a tough old bugger.

She’s been killed off and resurrected herself more times than we care to remember.

But she needs us now.

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Perhaps we just need to feel our hips push through those old turnstiles again. The sound of 34 sets of footy boots trampling across old concrete toward the field as the smell of hot dogs and meat pies dance their way across the park.

Fresh-cut grass. Deep Heat. Warm, overpriced, mid-strength beer. A grassy hill.

And eventually, somewhere, in a not-too-distant future, the Warriors playing home games back in Auckland after all the pain they’ve endured.

Rugby league has always had its own version of romanticism, more like an old couple enjoying the first taste of a roast dinner on a Sunday afternoon at the local RSL.

Sadly, we have lost that recently through no fault of our own. We’ve had other things on our minds.

But now we sit on the cusp of another year of footy. Beleaguered, battered, weary.

We start 2022 outside the bubble but still within it in so many ways.

And while the Warriors yearn for the days of running out in front of their own supporters, the drums, ‘Let’s Gone Warriors’ signs and the Mount Smart Joker, other fans will feel the comfortingly warm yet tattered old blanket of footy once more.

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Warriors fans

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

For the Panthers, their home game in Round 1 against the Eagles will be the first time they’ve played a competitive match in their own stadium in 251 days.

The same for the Canberra Raiders when they host Cronulla the next night.

For the Roosters, they haven’t played at the Sydney Cricket Ground for 294 days by the time they turn out to clash with Newcastle on March 12.

The only team that comes close to knowing how the Warriors feel are the Melbourne Storm, who are finally back at AAMI Park in Round 2 against Souths on March 17.

When they run out for that Thursday night blockbuster, it will have been 321 long days between home games – almost an entire year.

While we can’t take anything for granted, we also need to appreciate and live every organic moment we get in 2022, whether it’s at Suncorp Stadium, Henson Park or Kirkham Oval in Camden.

You never know when things will change… again.

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