A man sits cold and alone in the waiting room. The doctor is busy. At approximately this time every year, the number of his patients swells to an unbelievable high. More and more, it seems, need his services as each day passes. The orderly stands up, and his heart rate increases � could this be his time?
�Mr Smith, the doctor will see you now� she calls in an alarmingly positive tone. Damn. Not yet. Surely he must be next. As he waits, he steals a look around. The room is jam-packed with familiar faces. They, like himself, have an annual appointment. There�s Peter, showing all the classic symptoms. The shivering, the furtive glances, the unmistakable sadness in the eyes. Next to him is Ray. They don�t normally see eye to eye, but in a situation like this friendship is a valuable commodity.
�Ok, Mr Warren. He will see you now� yells the orderly. Finally. A brief sense of excitement washes over him as he realises that soon, he will have the remedy. But relief is still far away. He gets up and takes those few tentative steps towards liberation.
�Come in Ray, it�s good to see you again� the doctor says. �Has it really been a year already? My how time flies.�
�Far too quickly for my liking doc� says Ray, sadness dripping from every syllable. �It is much, much worse this year. I have never known it to be so bad. This year was like no other I have ever experienced. It was great, it was exciting, and most of all it was fun. And then just like that, it is all over.�
The doctor furrows his brow, apparently concerned by the seriousness of the situation. �I can see that you are in dire need of a cure. Please, take a seat. Now, I want you to recount your fondest memories of the past year. If you can tell me what they were, and why they were so great, we should be some way towards creating a management plan.�
Ray sidles over to the doctor�s chair, eyes already misting as he recalls happier times. �I suppose, at the start, you could not go past the great starts of three teams that nobody ever thought about being contenders. The Raiders, Sea Eagles and Sharks surprised the heck out of everyone, nobody more than myself. By contrast you had the unbelievably bad starts of the Dragons and Knights, while the Storm had everyone calling them unbackable favourites.
�Later on in the year, I suppose the biggest thrill was Andrew Johns� successful return to Origin. By that time, some roles had been completely reversed. The Raiders were in freefall, the Storm, Tigers and Cowboys were inconsistent and everyone was waiting for the Bulldogs and Roosters to �snap out of it� and charge into the top 8.
�A few weeks later, and suddenly the Eels and Dragons were challenging the Broncos as competition favourites, while the Tigers started what would turn out to be a record-breaking run. The Sea Eagles and the Sharks joined the Raiders in freefall, and the Rabbitohs began to show some improvement.�
Ray pauses as it becomes obvious the effort of reminiscing is taking its toll. �Towards the end of the year, everybody started talking about the Tigers. They were playing exciting football, yet still didn�t enter anybodies calculations. The Dragons were favourites then as the Broncos started to slide. Souths, the Panthers and the Knights tried their hardest to avoid the wooden spoon while the Raiders tried their hardest to win it. The Roosters and Bulldogs, meanwhile, still failed to snap out of it.
�But nothing could surpass the drama of the finals series. The Tigers� record win, the failures of the Broncos, Eels and Dragons and the fairytale grand final. I just don�t know how I�m going to cope without it doc.� Tears have begun streaming from Ray�s eyes as the reality of six months without the NRL hit home. The doctor, however, is smiling. He realises exactly what Ray needs.
�I�ve got the perfect prescription for you Ray. Every day, I want you to watch one game from the 2005 season. One and only one. Watch every game from every round, and continue until the end of February when the 2006 season begins. That should help you beat those withdrawal symptoms.�
With that, Ray rises from his seat. A sense of relief washes over him. He will be cured. �Same time next year, doc?�
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