LAST week's AFL Riverina opening round was like none that came before it, nor any other in the future.
The sound of the first siren across the three grounds was a symbolic exclamation point of a chaotic and stressful few weeks everyone involved put themselves through just to experience the simple pleasure of a football game.
The pies with sauce, the buckets of hot chips. Fans decked out in the jerseys and beanies of their team. The sense of anxiety and anticipation before a ball is kicked in anger. The cheer and jeers that greet every umpire's decision.
At the Wagga Tigers v Osborne game at Robertson Oval, even the background chatter of the Tigers secretaries double checking player numbers and goal scorers was a comforting sound. Footy is back.
There were plenty of naysayers out there in the lead-up. They insinuate the six clubs involved are putting pleasure ahead of personal responsibility.
But as long as they conducting themselves according to the rules, are following the advice of experts and are putting the health and safety of the community first, then I don't see the reasoning behind the angst out there.
All the presidents and coaches I've spoken to constantly over the last couple of weeks have all said, to a man, that they would shut the whole thing down as soon as they were informed it was unsafe to continue.
Until then, the mental and general well-being benefits you receive even just watching a game can make the enormous effort to get things up and running worth it.
Some coaches still aren't convinced the competition will run its course, which features six teams, six rounds and three weeks of finals.
But all of them are of the belief that even if it gets shut down by authorities midway through the campaign, it would still be worth justifying the virtual two pre-seasons they've had by having a kick.
Ultimately, it's a better scenario than opting not to play, only to learn that the situation could have allowed for a full season had we pressed ahead.
Like Mangoplah-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes president Jesse Cunningham said in this column last week, everybody can make their own choice on whether they want to embrace football's return or not.
We've already seen a handful of players and coaches withdraw, mostly due to family reasons out of concern for the coronavirus situation.
There's no right or wrong answer here. If participants want to sit out to take a safety first approach for their family, no one is going to begrude that.
But for those who want to play on, as long as it's safe, in my opinion the health and wellbeing benefits that come from having our great pastime back far outweigh the negatives.
Let's enjoy it while we can, and hopefully that's for another eight weeks.