It was a new era for many reasons but the focus was strictly on the Melbourne Storm and the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the 2021 opener.
The Storm, who for the first time in almost two decades, were without Cameron Smith, did not miss a beat to start the game.
Led by two of their current superstars in Cameron Munster and Ryan Papenhuyzen, the Storm burst out of the gates at full speed.
It was Papenhuyzen in particular, last years’ Clive Churchill Medallist, who put on a display that had the masses talking.
Not to be outdone, his counterpart, Rabbitohs fullback Latrell Mitchell also showed that he is primed for a big 2021 season.
In the end, it was a double from Papenhuyzen that got the Storm over the line at AAMI Park, winning 26-18.
Post-match, Storm coach Craig Bellamy admitted that heading into the game, he was worried about how his side would cope without Smith.
“Not having Cameron there I was a little bit worried,” Bellamy said after the victory.
“Jesse [Bromwich] and the leaders did a really good job there by steading the ship a little bit and we have got a lot of improvement in us.”
Inside ten minutes, the Storm had two quick tries and a cricket score seemed on the cards.
First, it was Munster who took the line on, caught the Rabbitohs defence napping and strolled over to score.
This was followed by a succession of plays that eventually saw Papenhuyzen record an assist for Justin Olam to score a simple try near the sticks.
Papenhuyzen then got himself on the scoresheet when he put Kenny Bromwich through a gap before receiving the ball back to score.
His second try was perhaps the more remarkable, when, spotting a gap, he accelerated towards the right touch line and planted the ball down.
Not to be outdone, the Rabbitohs fought back and through Alex Johnston, scored a try either side of half-time, both of which the winger scored.
Some steadying field goals would then seal the game for the Storm as the club and their 12,000 fans in attendance were left with something to cheer about.
Souths coach Wayne Bennett put the loss down to the way his Rabbitohs side approached the game.
“It comes back to attitude and it just wasn’t there,” Bennett said after the loss.
“Melbourne were good, they always are, it’s a credit to how they play and they wanted it more than we did.
“It might be a bit of hype, but there will be no hype around them today or for the next week or so.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Ryan Papenhuyzen
2. Latrell Mitchell
1. Jai Arrow