1. RUGBY league doesn't half give itself a tough gig at times, and sandwiched in between the Wigan salary cap breach announcement and news of Ben Barba's sacking by North Queensland Cowboys there was a rugby league match.

Not any old game - a Saints Wigan derby as Super League had its big launch under the tagline of #newbeginnings.

Did it work? Well 16,000 braved the bitterly cold conditions to watch it, and the game itself produced some compelling battles and a couple of sparkling tries. It was a very good game between two teams that will get better as they grow into the season.

But there was something about proceedings did not feel right. Maybe the weather was a factor, or it being a Thursday night, but there was a flatness about the atmosphere - not a patch on the Good Friday crackle - summed up at the end when hooter went and in that pause before the music started their was barely a murmur. No jubilant out-pouring of celebratory songs or taunting, just some very reserved applause for the gladiators.

Maybe we can read too much into it. Maybe lungs were frozen over and bodies in too much of a state of shock.

It is not a negative point. Kicking off with high profile derbies was part of the fresh start and an attempt to launch the season with a bang, and give it momentum to push it through spring.

But the Saints v Wigan fixture in itself needs a bit more of a build up; more anticipation and a bit more appetite whetting. Note for next year, maybe a Saints v Warrington, Leeds v Wigan combo may do the trick better and make sure that the bottle of pop is not opened too early in the journey.

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2. Did I mention it was cold? So cold that the press box was full of polar bears. I try not to moan about working outside for two hours a week when some folk have that all day, every day of the week, but I did feel sorry for some of our older and very young fans last night.

Admittedly it was freakishly cold, much colder than the preceding weeks, but we have to look at the main reason we are starting too soon.

We used to start Super League in March and wrap the league up, if you remember, on August Bank Holiday. Seasons in the sun summed it up.

That would be a touch misleading, in those days the Challenge Cup kicked off the year ahead of Super League.

But that short season - with a simple home and away fixture card - although a better, fairer system was clearly scuppered because some clubs need the extra money that the additional home fixtures bring.

That can be the only reason why we are kicking off our seasons in the depth of winter, going head-to-head with rugby union' s Six Nations juggernaut.

But I am afraid the only answer to this - short of lopping off the clubs just about clinging on financially - is getting our act together on and off the field, so that Super League can get a better television deal and ensure quality over quantity.

In the meantime, hold tight, the daffs are showing, the birds are getting lively and it will soon be spring.

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3, It must have been a shock to the system to Saints' three new NRL boys Lachlan Coote, Joseph Paulo and Kevin Naiqama.

Naiqama made a dream start, with good footwork and strength yielding the opener to get Saints off to a flyer.

But Barba's replacement Coote produced some really eye-catching touches. Sure he threw one intercept and spilled one high ball, but apart from that it was an exemplary display of top-drawer full back play.

The way he reacted to the ricochet off the posts seemed like second nature, even with fingers like Captain Birdeye's finest he swept up a succession of Wigan kicks on the line to defuse danger.

And in attack he linked well with the halves, and was Saints' go-to option on the last tackle with his astute left foot kicking game.

4. The new arrivals were eagerly anticipated, but a bigger story was Big Al Walmsley's return.

To suffer an injury like a broken neck must have sent the England prop through a fair bit of mental and physical turmoil since March.

To come back after 10 months and lock horns with Ben Flower and the other big lumps in the Wigan pack, and lay such a strong platform in tandem with Luke Thompson, showed immense strength and bottle.

A few more performances like that and he will get his wish not to be defined by his injury - and people will soon just go back to talking about his rugby.

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5. Justin Holbrook opted to start Theo Fages at seven instead of last year's Dream Team scrum half Danny Richardson.

Holbrook explained that Richardson had suffered a disrupted pre-season with the groin injury he suffered on the last week of the season.

Fages on the other hand has returned from French international duty and attacked training with relish, having a point to prove after being overlooked largely last term.

If the competition between the two can bring out the best in them, then it is win-win. But Holbrook has made it clear - the door is still open for Richardson.

That is pleasing to hear as we have an horrendous habit in British rugby league of being too impatient with young halves, Richardson has the skills and traits of a quality number seven. Once he goes back to taking on the line and committing defenders and giving the attack options, then we have an international in the making.

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6. We had our first look at the shot clock in Super League for the first time last night - and it worked.

Obviously it was not a night for hanging around, and the game was done in some 88 minutes playing time.

That is a huge improvement on last year's corresponding fixture - and a remarkable 23 minutes shorter than the Grand Final when there were multiple long delays at scrums. That is time when nothing is going on and momentum and intensity is flattened.

Of course, there was only one video ref call in last night's game, but the early signs show that the shot-clock is doing the trick in cutting out the dead time and gamesmanship.