2020 - a very good year to look at in the rear-view mirror, and one you'd hope we won't see the likes of again. Although nothing seems certain these days.
It has been a weird year for sports writing, with the pandemic causing absolute chaos in sporting world; so many of the major events cancelled and others, struggling to hang on, being performed in circumstances verging on the surreal.
Imagine telling somebody this time last year that the AFL grand final would be taking place in Brisbane; that a State of Origin match would be played in Adelaide (and that the series would be completed after the NRL final); that the Melbourne Cup would be run with no spectators and that the Masters would be played in winter?
This hypothetical listener would've listened to you with forced patience before backing slowly away to go and reserve you a room at the funny farm.
And those are the sports that somehow managed to keep the show somewhat on the road.
The British Open - cancelled.
Wimbledon - cancelled.
The Olympics - cancelled.
Newcastle Supercars - cancelled (possibly the only silver lining in the whole global debacle...)
Other than the pandemic, 2020 will probably best be remembered for being the year that Tiger Woods took ten shots on a par three.
Either that or, conversely - in appreciation of an elite athlete performing at their very best - for Joey 'the Jaws' Chestnut demolishing 75 hotdogs in ten minutes to set the new hotdog eating word record.
It was an achievement made even more impressive by the fact that, due to the restrictions, Chestnut performed this feat without the benefit of an audience who would more usually have been at the competition cheering him on...
My column on 'Competitive Eating' was one of my most popular for the year, going on the feedback, followed by the one on Bill Lawry and pigeon racing.
The cricket legend now rarely follows his old game and instead has taken on that most overlooked of sports - pigeon racing.
People also seemed to appreciate the ones on the fading sports of squash and croquet.
Croquet, I wrote, has an image problem. Interestingly this has almost always been the case; there's just always been something a bit dubious about it. Imported into England from Ireland at some murky historical point, it became the first game that young ladies were allowed to play outdoors with men.
The column that struck a chord with the football crowd was on the jumpers: It would seem unanimous in the readership that nobody wants to have difficulty discerning the Knights from Balmain.
Having a quick look back through them all there are some recurring themes that stick out: 2020 was a diabolical year for coaches.
Five gone in the NRL alone. Hockey, soccer, netball? They're doing it too.
All these codes are turning over coaches at an incredible rate.
It seems a strange trend - lost a couple of games? Sack the coach. Are the players now considered merely chess pieces?
The thing looming large over a lot of it is the issue of concussion, and, I assure you, it's not going anywhere.
It's the bogeyman threatening contact sport and it's a conundrum: The toughness of football is a big part of why we love it, but as the information comes in... do you want your kids playing it?
And if the kids aren't playing - and the game has more-or-less vanished from high school competition - then where is its future?
Its future, according to the powers-that-be, ie. V'landys and co., lies in its presentation as 'entertainment.'
Look, I know it's always been about entertainment: That's how league managed to split from the union back in the 1800s; it made itself a better spectator sport.
But it is also about something else, something a little harder to define - something to do with the game itself - and that something is being lost with this focus on 'entertainment.'
We've just now been presented with eight new rules for the 2021 season.
More tinkering, mostly untested and, so, quite a bit half-arsed in its instigation.
The big one is two point field goals from beyond 40 metres. The aim of this 'innovation' is the same as netball's new two point 'supershot' - to keep a losing team in the game.
'Entertainment,' apparently, requires cliff-hanger finishes, and these rules - as well as the evening-up instructions given to the referees that nobody's owning up to - are aimed at achieving exactly that.
'Unpredictability' has been the catchword coming from the administration.
Surely that should be the domain of the bounce of our irregularly shaped ball.
Further, these new rules further distance the NRL from the football being played everywhere else. The bunker? Captains' challenges?
They don't have a bunker when Singleton plays Muswellbrook.
It's an unnecessary divide in a sport already struggling to maintain it grass-roots.
It also separates us internationally.
What are the rules when we play England or France now?
'You've got to give the customer what they want,' says V'landys.
I just want to watch a game of tough, skilful old-style rugby league, where the best team wins. Doesn't everybody else?
Merry Christmas all.