The rugby league season has finally hibernated. Phew, what a marathon!
It is usually a time for reflection. The time when you assess the quality of football and footballers you paid to see.
Rooster and Raider fans can justifiably feel they got their money's worth.
Every time I saw Rooster fullback James Tedesco strut his stuff I felt rewarded.
Tedesco is bordering on greatness. Perhaps only "big Papa" Josh Papalii is also a contender for "greatness".
Forget the rest, I maybe a tough task master but I have been fortunate to see the very best the game has produced. Greatness abounded in the days of Gasnier, Churchill, Holman, Langlands, Smith, Rogers, Lewis, Provan, Meninga, Cronin etc etc.
But there is one I rate the greatest of them all.
You may wonder why today I sing the praises of Johnny Raper. "Chook" isn't well. At 80 years of age he isn't well at all.
I cheered my loudest whenever he played in the big red V or the sky blue and green and gold. Raper was a 'cheer maker'.
Off the field he was a mate. We had a ball. Probably a few too many. Chook lived life off the field with the same frenetic pace that he did on it.
How do you measure the worth of a mate? Let me give you one example.
It was mid-season in f 1962 when I was getting married. A Saturday afternoon, around 4.30.
I had invited Chook and his wife, "Toots" knowing they may be absentees due to the great player's commitment to St George.
After the wedding ceremony we adjourned to the reception at North Bondi. From my vantage point, I glanced around the room and saw Chook and Carole there.
Chook had left the field at the SCG a tad early. Saints, aw was the case, were leading by a cricket score.
A mate, I reckon.
I have often been asked what player I rated the greatest I had seen. I admit there have been times when I tossed and turned between Chook and "The King". Wally Lewis as such a dominant player for Queensland in many State of Origin epics. Often the difference between winning and losing the series.
But Raper excelled at every level. The complete lock forward package. Name it, he had it and he gave it for 80 minutes.
We may one day see another Winx, but I doubt it. We will never see another Johnny Raper.