Beers, yoga and passion
STEVE ‘Blocker’ Roach represented NSW in 17 State of Origin matches between 1984 and 1991.
Tonight in Perth, Blues forward Paul Vaughan will play in the same front-row position Blocker made famous.
A lot has changed in 28 years, from the coaching staff to match-day menu, as David Riccio reveals in this Origin edition of Then And Now.
INSIDE CAMP Blocker: “In those days, we wouldn’t have 10-day camps, we’d have seven days.
“We used to play State of Origin on a Tuesday then play in the Amco Cup on Wednesday night.
“It was an embarrassment if you didn’t back-up the next day. That’s what you did.
“We used to stay at Camperdown (Rydges) Travel Lodge, be it for Origins or Test matches. It’s still there — it looks exactly the same as it did 30 years ago.” Vaughan: “We’ve been based in Perth since Monday, staying at a nice hotel (Rendezvous) right on the beach, which is deliberate as we do a lot of our recovery around the beach and spend each morning walking through our plays on the grassed areas before we went to training at a private school.
“There’s a lot put into 10day camps, but seven days is more about recovery from your weekend’s match and staying fresh.
“It’s about getting the plays down pat and knowing your role within the team and finding that fluency.’’
BOOZE BANS Blocker: “We wouldn’t have a beer every night but the first three or four nights we would and then knuckle down. Vaughan: “We went out for a beer and dinner on Sunday night. I’m sure you can have a wine with dinner through the week but it’s just up to the individual.
“It also depends if you’re injured — in the first camp, I missed our bonding night because I had an 11pm physiotherapy session.
“It’s a huge game so you have to look after yourself.’’
TRAINING Blocker: “The first half an hour we’d cop a hammering on the field, especially if we’d been out for a couple of beers the night before. We trained pretty hard. There were no video sessions. It was more a discussion about tactics. What sort of competitor you were trying to be? Which player you needed to get over the top of?” Vaughan: “Training for us starts almost as soon as we wake up. We’ve got yoga, which is optional and then, at 8am, we do a walk-through out on the grass of a few of the plays. We then get on the bus and once we’re at the field, we get strapped, our hamstring flexibility is tested on a machine and we are also weighed. Then we warm up quite intensely for 20 minutes before a solid 90-minute training session with ballwork and defensive drills. I’ll have a protein shake as soon as I get off the field before our recovery session in the pool.”
COACHING STAFF Blocker: “We had one coach, one doctor and one trainer. That was it. No physios.” Vaughan: “To perform at our best, we’ve got the best physios, the best medicos, the best coaches, the best sports science technology and the best rugby league coaching staff this state has probably produced. Andrew Johns, Danny Buderus, Brad Fittler, Greg Alexander, they’re across everything.”
GAME DAY Blocker: “Game day is always a funny feeling. Especially in big games like Origin, you don’t play until 8 o’clock at night. My breakfast was leftovers from the night before. Spaghetti on toast. What you ate wasn’t as big a deal; we’d have a steak the afternoon of the game for the protein.” Vaughan: “I like to have a swim on game day before our team walk. We’ll then come back to the hotel for a team lunch and bunker down for the afternoon. I’ll have poached eggs for breakfast and then for lunch, I’ll have pasta and sweet potato. The only thing I’ll eat in the dressing room before the game is one or two bananas.”
WARM-UP Blocker: “The only thing I stretched was my imagination. There was no massage, I wouldn’t even touch my toes to stretch. I’d touch my knees and say ‘away we go, boys’. I played 80 minutes every week for 10 years. The one thing I do think about all this sports science, is that it will help the players when they’re in their 50s.” Vaughan: “I get pretty nervous before a game so the warm-up gets my heart rate up. It goes for a good 20 minutes.’’
POST-GAME Blocker: “There was a bucket of beer in the corner but it just depended if we’d won. You walk into a dressing room now and there’s fruit and pawpaw, pineapple on platters — if I’d won Origin, I’d have had six beers before I’d even got in the shower. It’s great that it’s gone like that.” Vaughan: “If you’re in a losing side, you’re less inclined to have a beer. But I don’t mind a beer in the rooms after we’ve won.
PAY CHEQUE Blocker: “For the whole series, I got $1500 and a head full of stitches. I played because it’s fun, not for cash.’’ Vaughan: “Every Origin player earns $30,000 per appearance. But honestly, that’s the last thing on my mind.
“And maybe that’s one thing that hasn’t changed since Blocker’s days because I play this game because I love it and it’s so much fun.’’
The Blues’ Ben Elias and Steve Roach prepare to take on the Cane Toads.
Paul Vaughan celebrates last year’s series win while Noel Cleal, Garry Jack and Steve Roach lead the celebrations in 1985.