Being a footy fan is not as easy as it looks. It has its highs and it has its lows, its fun times and its sadness.
At some point during the year, every fan of every team has that “dare to dream” moment. That moment when we actually think our team might just do it — might actually win the Premiership.
For us genuine fans, the year starts early, around December. We have a month or two off after the Grand Final and then the hard work begins.
First our membership renewal arrives and we sort our way through the options.
Do we go with full membership, with tickets to every home game? Do we look for reserved seats on the halfway line, or settle for general admission seats for a hand full of games?
Then the club emails start arriving, giving us updates on how the boys are handling summer training, how the new players are fitting in, how our players with injuries are recovering.
We study how our team finished last year, and try to work out whether our club has actually improved its roster.
We may have lost a few players to retirement or due to salary cap pressures. We may have picked up a few players, or have a couple of young guns coming up through the juniors.
We get excited. Is this going to be our year. For some lucky supporters whose team won last year, we dare to dream that our team will go back to back. That we will beat the hoodoo and in the case of the NRL be the first team since Brisbane in 1992 and 1993 to claim consecutive titles.
Before we know it, the first trials are announced. On paper the team looks nothing like the team we cheered last year as the coach rests players with injury concerns and bloods a lot players from the juniors.
If we win a couple of trials, we get excited and say to ourselves that if this is what we can achieve with a second string team — imagine what we will do with our best 17.
If we lose, we say: well, we didn’t play our best team, and trials don’t really matter.
All of a sudden, round one is upon us. We are full of anticipation. Surely this will be our year?
For some of us, we win the first few games, and wonder how many rounds we can remain undefeated. Will we remain undefeated through round 5, 6 or even further.
At the other end of the spectrum, some fans will watch in horror as their team loses the first three rounds, and wonder when their team will actually win a game.
And that is when the cruelty of Rugby League — or any sport for that matter — hits us.
You see, in the NRL, there are 16 teams, and the reality is that by the day of the Grand Final in early October, there will only be one winning team and 15 losing teams.
We can talk about being happy about making the top 8, or finishing higher than we did last year — but in the end, the only team that gets remembered is the Premiers.
And so the season continues. We measure our success.
Some of us remain confident that we can play September football and challenge for the title.
Others watch as we start to loose sight of the top 8. This year, the likes of the Titans, the Cowboys and the Bulldogs looked out of contention very early in the year — although the Bulldogs did win four games straight to leave their fans dreaming of a miracle — only to be dashed again.
In some ways, I envy those fans. Once your team is out of contention — there is no more pressure, no more doubts, no more dread.
And then State of Origin hits, throwing another spanner in the works. The better teams lose two, three or four players to Origin and their depth is challenged.
And gradually more fans realise their team will not win the title, probably won’t even make the top 8 — but some still dream.
They look at the ladder and the remaining games and theorise that if we win our last 8 games, and another team loses five of their last eight games, we can sneak into eighth place.
We get excited again. Then the killjoys point out that no team has won the title from outside the top 4 since Joseph played second row for Jerusalem.
We tell ourselves that with our best team on the paddock, we could be the team to do it.
While two sets of fans are dreaming of success, fans of the other 14 teams are already dreaming of next year.
This time next week, another set of fans will be planning for next year, while the lucky fans of the Premiers will celebrate for a month or three, and then the whole cycle starts again.
Why do we do it? Why go through all the pain, when success is so rare and fleeting?
Because we love our sport, and we love our team. Some of us were born into the team. Others adopted them at a young age.
No matter what happens, we love our team. We wear our colours with pride. We cheer whoever runs out in our team jersey.
South Sydney Till I Die . . .
And remember, there’s no such thing as too much sport!