Regular Club Rugby contributor Kevin McCarthy is now flying the flag for the Vanuatu Hurricanes Supporters Club, where he is living for the next two years, working on a voluntary project and supporting the team from afar.
February is always going to be a weird time for rugby. After the endless summer of 2018, and then this week's cyclone, it's even weirder. But ladies and gentlemen, it really is time for Super Rugby again.
Of course for the committed like you, then we're raring to go - you might even have checked out the first round scores (yes, the comp had some South African and Argentinian action last week). You might have got your head around the latest format. You might have glanced at the schedule and checked out the squads, at least the Kiwi ones.
But for most people, Super rugby will trundle along until mid-comp when it becomes clearer who is going where. It's a shame, but given the chopping and changing, you can forgive fans.
So just to get us going gently, some random thoughts about what's coming up.
Expectations: It's still unbelievable sometimes but we expect the Canes to be in the finals. And no-one laughs when you say that. Send me their address if they do.
Good on paper: A lot of teams look good pre-season. The Canes have a mouth-watering roster and some great depth. But where, to who, and for how long will the injuries strike.
Hello world: It's great to kick off in Africa, then Argentina. You never know what will turn up on either side, but better to be travelling early than late.
Hello real world: Game 3 against the Crusaders. Please please please win it. Because . . .
It's always the pool of death: Every Kiwi derby is so crucial.
Notwithstanding that: If you drop a game against an overseas outfit, especially lame outsiders like the Rebels, that really hurts.
It starts up front: That's still true. Will the Canes pack do the job? There's certainly some beef and explosiveness and raw talent. They need to gel and give the pretty boys all they need.
It doesn't start week one: Yes the first games will be picked over to death. And we better win them. But if we don't, it ain't the end of the world.
The brains trust: The Canes have a formidable coaching team, and it shows. They also have plenty of experience on the park. But will those key moments get seized in the big encounters, the ones that got away last season.
Some muppet will say: Take The Three. Ok that's me. Let's temper the Canes go-for-the-try attitude with a bit of ruthlessness. You can kick a goal and reset and be hard on the attack a minute later in modern rugby. But you can't ever get back the three points.
Be a good fan and teach your children well: This is simple. Scream all you like at the live matches or in the comfort of your own lounge. Applaud opposition scores. Give them some old-fashioned razzing, and help the ref with his calls. Don't for heaven's sake whistle during the other team's goal kicks. And don't say anything to Brad Shields on social media that you wouldn't say to him in the back seat of a shared taxi.
Trust your own instincts: You watch plenty of footy. Don't be overly swayed by the noise in the media and the hysteria around incident x or y. You know as much as the next bloke - and very few of us know as much as the people actually playing, coaching or reffing.
Of course, 2018 won't be like any other season. It will be Chris Boyd's and Brad Shields' farewell. A shame but that's a testament to modern rugby. Nothing, not even success, is forever.
Good on Shields for his shift and aspirations to play at the top level. It's not fair to expect guys of his calibre to keep waiting and waiting for the magical call-up to the black jersey. If the All Blacks wanted him, they should have got him. But it's a crowded field.
Did Hansen ever talk with Boyd? Who knows. I do know that Hansen did not ring me during 2017, but I've forgiven him that. Please stop the texts after midnight though, Shag.
And finally I must admit that I won't be at a single stadium match this season, barring some strange turn of events. My partner and I have just moved to Vanuatu for the next two years. I'm working with Volunteer Service Abroad on a project to build a museum of the South Pacific War on Espiritu Santo, the northernmost large island in the country.
It was an enormous base for Allied forces in the war against Japan, and thousands of New Zealanders served there or passed through there. No doubt an All Black or two.
But many people, even locals, know nothing of the story.
You can find out more and support the project at www.southpacificwwiimuseum.com
We have got a project office and mini-museum to visit in Luganville town on Santo. Please drop by if you're holidaying and have a yarn.
As part of our orientation, we spent a couple of days being hosted in a local village. They were lovely people and very generous to us, including surprising us with handmade colourful island clothes to take with us.
Mine was a shirt.
In yellow and black.
How did they know?