It seems so long since the end of the last season, and it was great to have rugby league back on the telly, even if it was 9-a-side.
Unlike thr rugby union sevens which now has specialist players and coaches, most of whom are not top level players in the 15-a-side game, rugby league nines has yet to develop an identity of its own. Instead the competition featured first grade players with most teams playing their first grade plays and structures. This made the games appealing in a way though they lacked the madcap pace of rugby union 7s.
Some teams took more interest in it than others. Billy Slater was the main promoter of the competition in the pre-tournament publicity but wasn't risked on field. The reason was obvious and explicitly articulated by Manly coach Trent Barratt - he didn't want to risk injury to his star players. I guess I don't really understand why a genuine competition with real opposition where the players play in short bursts should be taken less seriously than the trial matches that the teams will play over the next few weeks. But I guess it is understandable that their focus should be on the premiership.
The Warriors, as always, were pre-tournament favourites, I suppose, because they were playing at home. They did put up most of their top players including Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. They made the final but lost there, I think mainly because they had less recovery time after their semi-final than did the Parramatta Eels. That's the luck of the draw I guess, but they did just look tired to me.
It does make me wonder though if the game might be better with fewer players on the field. Would 9 or 10 or 11 a side make for more open football. I have asked a few people about this and just about everyone chokes on their drink. I think it might be worth thinking about.