At last! The justification for having
Foxtel is upon us again with all the hype and hope befitting the world’s best
rugby competition short of a Test series. But the reality is that while
Australian rugby fans should certainly enjoy the ride, there’s not much chance
of a happy ending.

The various promotional spreads in the
local fishwrappers are all putting their best spin on it, but the harsh
realities are that the Western Force will do well to just avoid the wooden
spoon, Queensland’s season begins and ends tomorrow night against NSW, the
Brumbies won’t make the final four and while the Waratahs will, they haven’t
got what it takes to beat the Crusaders.

But the good news is that it doesn’t really
matter – there’s always next season and, unlike the chimers who leap aboard the
soccer and Sydney Swans bandwagons only when there’s a win in the air, the
rugby faithful know the game itself is the thing, and within each 80-minute war
there are numerous battles that shouldn’t be missed.

Tonight, for example, the Brumbies will
give the Western Force a harsh introduction to Super 14. John Eales writing in
the AFR on Monday called the sandgropers Queensland B thanks to all the banana
benders signed there – although given that the Reds themselves look a bit like
Queensland B, the Force should maybe be Queensland C. Eales kindly said the
Force would hope to make other teams dread the trip to Perth this season –
meaning that at best they will try to get tribal about the home turf and spring
some surprise wins at the Subiaco aerial
ping pong ground.

But who would want to miss the showdown
between the halfbacks, the out-going Wallaby captain George Gregan v the
Force’s pretender to the gold number 9 jersey, Matt Henjak? Both men have
everything to prove, that Gregan isn’t past it and that there’s more to Henjak
than attitude and a nightclub incident.

There are other battles that are just as
interesting.

Tomorrow night, the great domestic rivalry
– Queensland v NSW. Last year, the Waratahs defeated the Reds for the first time
in 13 years and as we Queenslanders know, if those mimsy sky blue jumpers
triumph only once every 13 years, it’s still far too blo*dy often.

But as the beer ad says, it’s all good,
mate. As for the others, Blues at home to beat the Hurricanes; Bulls to beat
the other new team, the Cheetahs; Crusaders easily over Highlanders; home ground
advantage means Cats beat Stormers; and Sharks will do the Chiefs.

Peter Fray

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