IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
CCORDING to the lyrics of a Cyndi Lauper smash hit released a year a er Steve Roach’s 1982 Sydney first grade rugby league debut, girls just wanna have fun. And, of course, they’re very entitled to it. A er all, who doesn’t?
Likewise, if you put it to the aforementioned Balmain Tigers legend of the blokes’ preference for a good time, they just want to have a bit of fun of their own. However, from his vantage point, Roach fears the demands on the current young player base just might be taking too much fun out of the modern version of the elite game.
These days Blocka is a regular panel member on Fox Sports’ weekly show OnThe CouchWith
Sterlo. He also commentates on a regular basis on match days for the payTVnetwork. Anyway, we caught up with the great man at the launch of Fox League’s recent second-annual Retro Round at the Bristol Arms Hotel in Sydney.
This particular night, Blocka, who played 185 games for his belovedTigers in the New South Wales Rugby League between 1982-1992, tore the house down with tales of larrikinism, booeadedness and all sorts of tomfoolery amongst the playing group of the 1980s era.
As the 17-game New South Wales Blues veteran and 19 Test-match stalwart for Australia stood on the venue’s stage, swapping stories with fellow league legends Mark “Spud” Carroll and Greg “Brandy” Alexander, it was obvious there’s plenty Blocka misses about the way the game was played back in his heyday.
“There was actual confrontation on the field,” he shared with Inside Sport in a private chat later on. “There was striking in the play the ball. There was striking in the scrums. There was striking when two blokes had a ding-dong bale!
“I’m the luckiest bloke in the world. I’m 55 now. I have a four-year deal with Fox. Mate, I can just say what I think. If that offends someone, I’m sorry. If I’m wrong, I’ll say I was wrong. I’m a bit like the naughty boy.
“The greatest line I like to think about now is: the game was supposed to be fun. When I played, I loved it. I met a lot of great people who I’m still mates with today. It should never ever be a chore; sport shouldn’t be a chore. The list of things you can’t do now is bigger than the list of things you can.” A colleague of your author at IS likes to share a take-away quote he collected from Blocka during his own interview a few years back. The line from Roach went something like: in my day we had two training sessions each week – one was a barbecue.
It’s in this vein that Blocka’s heart does actually go out to the modern player – however paraded or overpaid he may seem to the general footy public, especially in the current collective bargaining agreement negotiations environment. “This is just my perception of what I see, but the training, the recovery: when do you get to enjoy yourself?
“A couple of blokes had a beer, six days out from an Origin ... They’re grown men! I used to have a few beers before a game ... To relax me!
“Mate, to me, you’re supposed to love what you do. If you don’t, go and do something else. Find what you love – find what your passion is. I admire the modern players and everything they achieve on the footy field, but I also want to see people enjoying what they do.”
“A couple of blokes had a beer six days out from an Origin. They’ re grown men! I used to have a few beers before a game… to relax me !”
Blocka in his Balmain Tigers days. Getting retro with Fox League colleague Mark Carroll.