SATURDAY SPRAY: Fantasy sustains passion for game
ONE reason I'm an uninhibited sports reporter is because I don't bleed for any emblem.
At 8, I became an instant fan when I was given a Balmain Tigers cap. As I grew, so did the Green Machine, then I turned my back on the game completely during the Super League years.
A move to Newcastle reignited my interest, but my move away coincided with Joey Johns' retirement and the motivation of part-time loyalty wore off. Besides, who wants to cheer for Kurt Gidley? Not me.
Later, I keenly followed the Rabbitoh resurrection, but have struggled to stay on the bandwagon with any real vigour. In my mind, passion for the game doesn't require dyed in the wool, blind obsession for any motley group of meatheads.
Instead, for the past decade at least, my loyalties lie a) with the team I've tipped this week and b) the players in my fantasy team.
These days I watch games purely to see my players run, tackle and score. If one of my players makes a half-break and is pulled down by another, that's a win-win.
So who's on the shortlist for my NRL Supercoach league draft - in which every team has unique players - which takes place this Monday?
Bryce Cartwright: Came on like a machine in 2017 and is only 22. While Origin duty may stand in the way this year, Expect a huge season from Cartwright - and the Panthers for that matter.
Josh Hodgson: High-scoring hookers usually get snavelled up pretty quickly in the draft, and I'm tipping the Raiders in 2017, which means lots of points for Hodgson.
James Graham: Last year he was my workhorse who provided all season long. Expect the same from Mr Reliable.
The key to NRL Draft as opposed to Dream Team?
Picking up the unknown quantities early. All the big names will be snagged up by someone in the league, but luckily last year I snagged two of the finds of the season Sunisali Vunivalu and David Fusitua just as their form streak began.
Why I like the Draft?
There's an element of crafting your custom-made team with the players you like - not just the 17 top scoring players in the competition.
At each round of the draft, there's a selection of players of relatively equal ability floating around at the top of the player pool. Why pick an unsavoury bloke like Andrew Fifita when you could pick a legend like Ryan James or Aaron Woods?