It's that time of year again

A fellow teacher at school reached down, picked up a handful of freshly cut grass and took in a deep breath.

“Do you know what that is?” he asked.

“No, what is it?” I quizzed, with a puzzled look.

“That’s the smell of freshly cut grass and that means one thing – footy is back.”

Rugby league is back for another year.

The 2019 Intrust Super Cup season kicks-off Saturday afternoon when Easts Tigers host Mackay Cutters at Langlands Park.

It’s the first of 23 matches each Intrust Super Cup club will feature in before the new-look eight-team finals series begins in early September.

It is an exciting time.

For the players, this weekend is a long time coming.

Congratulations to those named to play in the Intrust Super Cup this weekend.

Many of them last laced up their boots for an official match nearly six months ago.

More than that, they have been pushing themselves to the limit for the past four months.

I am sure many players are excited, many are nervous, and many relieved.

Many would be disappointed too; the reality of competitive sport is that each coach can only select 17 players each weekend.

For those who missed out, it is another week of asking questions, working smart, improving – doing what they can to ensure their Intrust Super Cup coach has to pick them.

Your time will come when you have earned it.

In reality, 30 to 40 players will feature in an Intrust Super Cup match at each club sometime in 2019.

I played 238 Intrust Super Cup matches across two clubs over 17 seasons.

I played my first for the Central Queensland Comets (now Capras) way back in 2002. Just one match that season.

Another couple in the next.

Guy Williams in action for the Capras in 2014. Photo: QRL Media
Guy Williams in action for the Capras in 2014. Photo: QRL Media

It wasn’t until I was 21 or 22 that I became a regular in the Intrust Super Cup.

It is a tough competition that demands plenty of its players.

Many are working eight to 10 hours per day and then training for two to three hours, three or four nights per week.

For those young players missing out this weekend, hang in there.

I remember having a conversation with Souths Logan Magpies lock Phil Dennis after the completion of the 2018 season.

He mentioned to me that coach Jon Buchanan had told him that there was no guarantees he would feature in the Intrust Super Cup in 2019.

Initially disappointed, Phil thought he had done enough to earn a swansong season.

Fair enough given he’s played the most Intrust Super Cup matches of any player.

Phil Dennis in action for the Mapies in 2018. Photo: QRL Media
Phil Dennis in action for the Mapies in 2018. Photo: QRL Media

However, I said to him that deep down he wouldn’t want to be given a spot in the Magpies team just because of what he’d done in the past.

He’d want to earn his place; he’d have to knuckle down during the pre-season and erase any doubt in Jon Buchanan’s mind of his ability to play at this level.

It looks like he’s done just that. I was pleased to see Phil’s name in the Magpies’ Round 1 team. Well done.

For me, it was a different pre-season to those I have experience annually for the past 16 years.

Guy Williams in action for Norths. Photo: QRL Media
Guy Williams in action for Norths. Photo: QRL Media

I decided to swap the playing boots for the clipboard and whistle and coach the Norths Devils Mal Meninga Cup side.

It is a lot of work but I’ve loved the experience.

There’s something special about working with young men who are eager to lift their games to the next level.

The Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup is short – it’s six weeks plus finals – but it’s a great competition.

Get out and support your local club by watching their Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup and Hastings Deering Colts sides. It’s a great day of footy!

And, as a bonus, I have no doubt you’ll get a glimpse of future NRL stars.