Like most rugby league supporters, I'm forced into a state of hibernation at this time of year.
We're like hedgehogs and become inactive until the first game of the Super League season appears on the radar.
It's also a time of year when many of these animals pump themselves up and prepare for the tough times ahead.
Well, I've no doubt that that's been the case in 14 gyms as the players look to build up a physical resilience for a 27-round competition that starts in just a few weeks.
Without any games to talk about, the only question on the street at present is who will win this year? We all know that it's taking place in Manchester but we don't know who'll be there. This year, though, might be a little different to the rest!
It will go down as not only the most remarkable season in Super League, but also in British sport over the last 40 years.
Quotes of the week
Last year's winners, Wigan, have an even bigger challenge than they had 12 months ago.
Most people thought that they'd struggle when they lost Thomas Leuluai, Jeff Lima, and Brett Finch at the end of 2012, but can the Warriors really be as good now that they've lost Sam Tomkins?
He was one of the reasons why the Warriors won so many matches and also why so many people tuned into a game on Sky Sports.
I think that the trendy term is 'box office'. Whether you supported Wigan or not, Tomkins demanded your attention.
The 2013 Champions have also lost Lee Mossop, one of the best forwards in Super League, so can Wigan's assembly line turn out a replacement in 2014?
For the last few years Stevo, myself and most other pundits have tipped the Warrington Wolves for success.
It's not a random choice as they have possibly the best coach in the competition, a strong group of senior players and a talented bunch of younger ones.
This year is their first without Lee Briers, but I think that they'll be equally as good and make it to the Grand Final again.
Last season's League leaders, Huddersfield, fell before the final hurdle, and some people believe that it will have made them stronger and even more determined in Super League XIX.
I'll be amazed if Danny Brough can be as impressive and influential this season. I admire his competitive spirit and am sure that he knows how closely he'll be watched by every team that he plays against, but can he lead them all the way to Old Trafford?
It'll be interesting to see if any of the people who turned up to watch the World Cup match played in Huddersfield last autumn, return to watch the Giants this season.
For me, the success of the World Cup gets measured over the next 12 months in terms of the impact that it has on the sport in participation, paying spectators, corporate income and media interest.
The birth place of the game is one town that we should measure on those terms in 2014.
The Rhinos supporters are used to a fixture list that includes a game at Old Trafford in October and I bet they're optimistic of a visit this year when they see their team photo.
It has one of the most impressive backlines I've seen for years and the potential wingmen should have plenty of chances to impress the South Stand this season.
On paper, St Helens have a better balanced squad. Will that be enough to bring them an end to several years without silverware?
They lost a total of 11 games last season which started when they were hammered 40-4 at home by the Giants. A better start would help this year.
Of all the other teams from last year's top eight, I'd have to say that Hull have the greatest potential to rise up and make a difference. There is lots of recent evidence to suggest that an inexperienced coach, in his first season, can inspire a side to glory.
Lee Radford takes over a squad of talented players who were good enough to beat last season's runners up away in Warrington last May and have the experience, albeit a bad one, of playing at Wembley.
Every year we talk them up, but look what happened to Huddersfield under Paul Anderson in his first year in charge. In this age of high definition TV the future just might be Black and White.
However, here is where I'm going to shock you. I don't think that any of them will be Champions this year. It will go down as not only the most remarkable season in Super League, but also in British sport over the last 40 years.
In a city where the Blues are currently the best performers on a football field, I reckon that it will be the Reds who lift the trophy at Old Trafford. Not the ones who play there most weeks, but the ones belonging to Dr Marwan Koukash, and led into battle by Brian Noble.
I'm slightly tired of hearing people talk about the need for stability in sport. Everybody cites the example of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
He won lots of domestic trophies, but managed to lift the biggest prize, the Champions League Trophy, just twice in 26 years. Contrast that with Real Madrid, who had 26 managers over the same period but lifted the same trophy on three occasions.
If the Reds have the right players, with enough discipline and desire, I think that they can walk it to the Grand Final this year and return over the Manchester Ship Canal with that big, shiny, silver trophy on a Saturday night in October.
Coaches have a thankless task, but it's made much easier when you have talented players with a point to prove. Several of those are currently training in their Salford kit and have the chance of taking the team from bottom to top in less than 12 months.
Salford have some of the most loyal supporters I've ever come across and I hope that the Special Deliveries that have arrived mean that they have something to shout about this season.
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Ben Darwin says...
The difference between real and man united is that real have bought there way to the title. They have to spend more in order to let the talent outweigh the combination. Salford are theoretically under a cap.
Posted 07:05 7th February 2014
Graham Cox says...
Get some money on Salford if you're convinced Phil. You should get some remarkable odds. I'll personally have a tenner with you on them not winning anything. How yer fixed?
Posted 17:20 20th January 2014
Neil Saunt says...
I hope Salford do well this season simply because if Mr Koukash can make a successful club out of Salford then it may attract more potential investors, but win at old Trafford? go back and work on your margin metre clarkey!
Posted 10:49 19th January 2014
Ian Waterworth says...
i cant not wait till this year when we play agest all the super league team and hope to were silverware
Posted 17:42 14th January 2014
Brian Rouse says...
Clarkey, I don't know what you have been drinking but put me down for a gallon
Posted 13:56 14th January 2014
Common Sense says...
Hard to believe you've published this Sky Sports. Salford finished bottom of Super League last season. Now Clarke thinks that with a few relatively decent signings they can win the competition. He's as deluded as a moose in a car signing lullabies listening to One Direction with a hat on backwards. There is more chance of David Cameron deciding to become Labour, scientists revealing the earth is actually flat and aliens landing on Earth to take away one of their own Wayne Rooney back to his home planet Zorg. Good luck to Salford, but winning Super League. Not A Chance.
Posted 13:03 14th January 2014
Roy Ellaby says...
As a Salford supporter of almost 50 years I've seen the good times and the bad. A lot more bad than good I can tell you. Dr "Kou" is owed a MASSIVE thank you for saving the club from extinction this time last year. From the changes he's made will we win Super League? Who knows. Personally I think Phil Clarke must still have a bit of sleep in his eyes coming out with that statement. I hope he's right of course but I think it's a few years down the line. We've got to learn to win at Leeds, Wigan, St Helens and Bradford as well as the teams that aren't so good. Then we have to learn to win play off games. The last time we had a really good season we went to Odsal in a play off game and copped for fifty odd against!! I think we'll not be amongst the cellar dwellers but Champions? Not just yet....but we're coming!!!
Posted 09:41 14th January 2014
Jim Diamond says...
Bring it on! Salford for the GF! Then they can play Sydney Roosters in the 2015 WCC!
Posted 09:34 14th January 2014
Grant Latus says...
Surely this has to be a wind up? Salford have assembled a team of misfits, journeymen & past it players. Throw in the fact that Noble is still in the dark ages, you honestly believe they are going to Win the whole thing?? They will do well to make the 8! Koukash is already spitting his dummy out over lack of pass sales & it won't be long before he packs up his bat & ball believe me. And Hull FC with the most potential, don't make me laugh!
Posted 08:45 14th January 2014
Ephraim Chase says...
Good luck for your new team Rangi for 2014.. Salford reds All the very best from your whanau back here from down under new Zealand.. ;-)
Posted 00:14 14th January 2014
Ephraim Chase says...
Go Rangi hope you do well for your new team Salford Reds 2014.. ;-)
Posted 23:48 13th January 2014
Ross Thaddeus says...
Is this a wind up? Salford tipped to walk it to the grand final? WOW im so so happy...Bring on the Salford
Posted 18:43 13th January 2014
Russell Johnson says...
I agree with you it's going to be amazing - I think some of the so called lesser clubs have strengthened well too-can't wait!
Posted 18:08 13th January 2014
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