THE inaugural Magic Round kicks off at Suncorp Stadium, and in a cagey tactical move, the NRL have scheduled the four Queensland teams - Titans, Broncos Cowboys and Storm - to play on separate days.
It opens with the Titans v Sharks, and Cronulla's 26-18 win is reminder for long-suffering Knights fans to keep their self-pity in perspective.
Way back when Newcastle were first admitted to the NSWRL in 1988, they were accompanied by two other newbies, Brisbane and Gold Coast. The Gold Coast were originally known as the Giants, then the Seagulls, then the Chargers ... and then spent a few years in purgatory before being reincarnated as the Titans.
At least Knights fans had the memories of two premierships to comfort them during the seemingly endless wooden-spoon era.
Gold Coasters are still waiting for something to celebrate ... from any of their sporting teams. Garth Brennan will go down in history as a miracle worker if he can steer this rabble past the beaches, nightclubs, theme parks and casino towards the Holy Grail.
DYLAN Walker emerges from Manly Local Court with his head held high after Magistrate Michelle Goodwin rules that she could not be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the Manly centre had assaulted his partner.
Walker's partner, Alexandra Ivkovic, phoned triple zero in December and told the operator that Walker "pulled my hair and I fell down". In court, however, she insists she subsequently "realised he didn't grab my hair". I guess it's an easy enough mistake to make.
Anyway, after being stood down for the first nine rounds of the season, Walker is free to resume playing, a fine, upstanding ambassador for rugby league, the greatest game of all.
NEWCASTLE'S Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes reckons McDonald Jones Stadium would make an ideal venue for Magic Round, should the NRL ever feel the need to move it from Suncorp.
"There is no greater rugby league heartland than Newcastle and the Hunter," she says. "So this would be an ideal location ... it's really just a case of convincing the NRL to come here from Brisbane the next time that comes up for grabs."
Some are doubtful, pointing out that McDonald Jones is too small to accommodate the 40,000-strong crowds that Magic Round has attracted thus far.
But as we all know, a crowd of 40,000 Queenslanders actually equates to 20,000 bums on seats.
As the Knights tackle the Bulldogs, I find myself what the game is coming to. In particular, the scrums.
Scrums were once a chance for large men with broken noses and cauliflowered ears to exchange head butts and uppercuts, while sly little men maintained a facade of innocence as they stuck the ball in behind their second-rowers' feet.
These days, scrums are a joke, as evidenced by towering Newcastle wingers Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Edrick Lee feeding the pill in, just like the blokes who wore the No.7 jersey once used to do.
Is nothing sacred?
"GOD spoke to me". According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, that was the explanation Israel Folau offered when he fronted a Rugby Australia disciplinary hearing to explain his recent social-media post declaring that homosexuals and other misguided souls were doomed to burn in hell.
Well, that's a relief.
There I was thinking Israel was just some weirdo, but he's actually been on the blower to the big fella upstairs. It makes sense, if you think about it, given that rugby is the game they play in heaven. Presumably God has his own corporate box at the great big rah-rah stadium in the sky.
Speaking at his church, Israel explains to the congregation why he hasn't taken the easy option of retracting his statements and asking the powers-that-be to show leniency.
"The way Satan works is he offers you stuff that could look good to the eye and makes you feel comfortable, and if you follow that path all the worries and troubles will go away," he says.
WHAT'S that old saying about a Bird in the hand being worth two in the bush?
A couple of years ago, the Knights would have given anything to have a Bird in the hand. Jack Bird, to be precise.
Instead he brushed them to head north for a bumper contract with the Broncos.
Last year he played only eight games after suffering a sternum injury. Now he needs a season-ending knee reconstruction.
Knights officials must be relieved Bird didn't choose to feather his nest with their cash.
EVEN after the injury to Jack Bird, the Broncos can't find a spot in their first-grade team for NSW Origin centre Jimmy "the Jet" Roberts, who is clearly on the nose up north.
The Panthers, meanwhile, react to going like busteds by dropping Test representatives Reagan Campbell-Gillarrd and Josh Mansour.
All of which has set the stage perfectly for NSW coach Brad Fittler to employ some reverse mind games.
Just imagine Freddy picking three reserve-graders for Origin I. He could then cap off this masterstroke by claiming the underdog tag, which would leave those dirty, rotten Cane Toads in disarray before the series even kicks off.
PARRAMATTA unveil plans for a new $40 million high-performance centre.
It seems a truckload of money, but then again, they are desperate.
The Eels haven't had a high-performance centre since the halcyon days of Mick Cronin and Steve Ella.