So here we stand at the dawn of a new season. Finally long and tedious Friday nights in front of B-grade rented DVDs draw to a close and 27 weeks of Friday action lay glistening ahead. Finally Manly fans can face the new season already feeling the hate. A decade is a long time between drinks when it comes to feeling the paltry fury of the jealous and down-trodden that have attached their flag to teams of lesser pedigree. How sweet it has been to read the experts tipping us for finals action, labeling us as one of the teams that have improved in stature from last year. However, before we get carried away, let us consider a few things of immense importance: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Last yearÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s wooden spooners, the Newcastle Knights were unanimously selected as finals certainties in March 2005. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Last yearÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s pre-season favourites, the Bulldogs, failed to make the finals. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ 151-1 long shots, the West Tigers are defending Premiers. So while the Sea Eagles faithful can face the season with renewed confidence and expectation, I feel duty bound to point out that abject calamity is only one week away. Consider that last yearÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s fall of the Knights and Bulldogs was caused by a terrible run of injury to key players. Consider the Tigers were languishing near the rear of the field mid-season but rode home on a wave of enthusiasm, luck and momentum. With the competition so even, it stands to reason that each game must be taken on its merits and NO game can be underestimated. This is especially the case in ManlyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s season opener on Saturday night. Consider what many think to be in our favour: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ A huge home crowd barracking for the men in maroon and white. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ An opponent ravaged by injury. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ An opponent tipped by many as wooden spoon certainties. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ An out of town team that donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t travel well. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ A team we thrashed in just Round 26, in Canberra, in their last taste of NRL action. However, it is exactly this line-up of factors in our favour that make me nervous. Consider that every recent opening round has been littered with upsets, with trial and on-paper form turned on its head when the whips really start to crack. And no team in recent years has enjoyed a better record of opening round upsets away from home than the Raiders. I suspect this is because much vaunted teams slip into the habit of underestimating the men in green. As the odds continue to stack in our favour, this is exactly the scenario of underestimation and complacency that could undo our side. And to drop a game that should be considered a certain two points would be calamitous indeed. There are tougher games in weeks to come. This weekend is the time to open our account with two points, because they will not be easy to come by in the next month. Consider the pressure that will build if we drop this game and then have to venture to Townsville to face the Cowboys in their opening home game. Even worse would be to lose this game as well as one or two of our key players. Imagine the consequences of the following receiving a long term injury: Matt Orford ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ precipitating a return of Michael Monaghan to half back and a resurrection of his concentric circle routine. Ben Kennedy ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ and the inevitable loss of his leadership and inspirational abilities. Steve Menzies ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ who would be around to clean up the mess left by the enthusiastic youngsters? Steve Bell ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ and a return to dual turnstiles lurking on the fringes of our defensive line. So fingers crossed on two accounts: 1. That our lads donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t let a hint of complacency seep into their preparation or game. 2. That we get through with a win and a clean slate of injuries for the tough assignment the next week. So be optimistic, but donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t forget that our new optimism can quickly turn to ashes if the ball does not bounce our way. HereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s how we can help: 1. Those in Sydney get to the ground and swell the numbers. Be vocal. We need an intimidating crowd in excess of 20,000 in full voice to inspire the troops. 2. DonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t assume victory and hope that our team is of the same mindset. Enjoy the season kiddies. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s good to be back ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ letÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s hope the Matabele snarl and bite doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t see too much airplay in 2006.