IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING

Inside Sport - - CONTENTS - – James Smith

A

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, boo‹ead­ed­ness 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 ba•le!

“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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.