It’s the end of January and test match cricket is done for another season. The colour and energy of the shorter forms are about to begin. But aren’t we really just killing time until the footy is back? You can feel it. You can taste it. NRL 2012 is almost here.
Don’t get me wrong. Watching the Australian cricket side rip the smug Indians limb from limb for a month has been fantastic. The golden days of Aussie cricket aren’t back just yet, but they are on their way.
But almost robotically, as we watch the cricket wind down, we start to check the calendar. We start to check our favourite teams websites for news. The topic of conversation at the pub is changing. The thirst is returning.
Just as quickly as Peter Siddle can bellow “howzat”, rugby league is back baby.
The sweet sound of metal studs on concrete came marching through Redfern Oval on the weekend as the South Sydney Rabbitohs faced the Warrington Wolves. Sure it was a trial match and yes the Rabbitohs picked an inexperienced side. But how good is it to see some action again!
Next weekend will see the third annual All Stars clash on the Gold Coast with the biggest names in the game facing off. The NRL All Stars are gunning for back-to-back victories while an impressive looking Indigenous All Stars side want their title back. This event has become one of the highlights of the NRL season and will not disappoint on Saturday night.
This weekend will also see the majority of other sides go around for the first time this season.
The defending premiers Manly Sea Eagles travel to Toyota Park to battle the rejuvenated Cronulla Sharks. The Eagles will play most of their superstars and Todd Carney will appear for the first time in a Sharks strip. The Sea Eagles will be hoping to ramp up the momentum heading into the World Club Challenge in England in a few weeks.
Gold Coast Titans travel to Auckland to face the Warriors who return for their first game in New Zealand since appearing in the 2011 Grand Final.
Canterbury Bulldogs head down the Princes Highway for a clash with the St George Illawarra Dragons at WIN Stadium. This will be Steve Price’s first game in charge of the Dragons since head coach since Wayne Bennett left for Newcastle.
Redcliffe will host a Queensland derby between the Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys. The Broncos play their first game post-Lockyer while the Cowboys will be without Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Robert Lui and Aaron Payne.
The Knights, Melbourne Storm and Penrith Panthers will all play representative squads or Queensland Cup teams respectively.
Its summer time and cricket is king. But the whispers of winter are coming. The hot dogs, the Moore Park traffic jams, the beers, Leichhardt Oval, high tackles, Suncorp Stadium, Brad Fittler’s commentary, State of Origin, Billy Slater, tipping competitions, Paul Gallen, sausage rolls, the Continuous Call team, waking up Saturday morning to take your kids to footy and off course the soothing sounds of Ray Warren.
It is back!
This article was originally published on TheRoar.com.au and FootySocial.com.au