Sorry for bumping this up.
Is this possible? - I am not sure but I think I remember reading somewhere that you can open a modalpanel when a page is called. I can't find it in the Richfaces book.
If this is not possible, I can think of an alternative UI for my use case.
to open a modal at the start of the page i do this:
Thanks for your replies, six-p4ck & Nick
Nick - showRendered works great, thanks I missed that in the reference guide.