As the minutes tick ever closer to bounce/kickoff we need to address the real battle being waged this weekend:
SYDNEY VS MELBOURNE
MELBOURNE VS SYDNEY
This battle is as old as federation, if not older. For most of time it simmers away quietly, small skirmishes breaking out as friends from both cities land smug blows as to why their home town is better.
Occasionally each side manages to drive their invading force deep into enemy territory. The two armies pass each other, and suddenly find themselves at the gates of the holy citadel.
This weekend, both games are contested by Sydney and Melbourne teams.
Can the Sharks fend off the Storm and deliver the NRL the thing they prize above all else: a Sydney premiership?
Can the Bulldogs stare down the Swans and keep the walls of the MCG intact?
Sydney-siders should in theory be backing a Swans/Sharks double, while Melbournians will be cheering for a Bulldogs/Storm outcome.
The outcomes for the codes themselves are a bit more complex.
If the Swans win the AFL will have landed a shot deep in league territory, however the price will be no Melbourne team winning.
Likewise for the NRL – if the Storm take the title, the expansion teams continues to look good, but Sydney will look like a rugby league wasteland.
If you flip those outcomes around then both codes can protect home territory, while forgoing a year where their interstate teams are champions.
In an ideal world the NRL and AFL would be alternating between a home team and an expansion side every two years.
Thanks to the Hawks the AFL has been very Melbourne-centric, while the NRL has had a Syd/Syd/Qld run.
2016, much like 2012 (Swans & Storm), is a year where no matter what happens the codes lose in some small way.
Sydney or Melbourne, however, can claim total victory.