On a typical training day in Carlton, I sit in the eating area with my teammates loading up on packed lunches and sandwiches.
We are not far away from our field session and each player leaves to get strapped or begin their warm-up. Like most days this year I know I will be watching from the sidelines.
I find myself alone, head down in a bowl of chow.
Enter Robbie Deans. New Zealander by name and Aussie by trade.
There is much to like about our national coach. With a half crooked smile and the tight handshake that starts from far out wide, his mannerisms would suggest he has spent a lifetime as a fair dinkum Australian.
Robbie is known among the players for his long, delayed silences while in deep conversation. In the movie world this would be articulated as “dramatic effect”, but in Robbie’s world it is more often a way of delivering the right message.
A message that has played a part in my recent rugby reincarnation — it’s time to start living in the 80-minute moment.
Rugby in Australia is a sport like no other. It is staged on so many levels — juniors, local clubs, a domestic and an international competition. My journey was scripted perfectly, always striving to go one better and to go as far as I could.
The last few months have almost been an identical path to 10 years ago. From juniors in the Rebel Rising program, (playing with kids 13 years my junior) to local club and then to the Melbourne Rebels tonight. Although my path is similar, my mindset is completely different.
Each step there was no carrot, there was no incentive, no more money or higher stripes on your sleeve, my motivation was “play, enjoy and don’t get injured”.
From this very point in time my ethos was simple. Embrace that every 80 minutes you are playing in as if it were your last. A cliche, but I know I have spent most of my career with the opposite mentality.
My path back from the realms of retirement has been long and winding, but a path that I have been fortunate enough to experience and, more importantly, one I have come to the end of.
Although 31, I feel extremely lucky to have been given a second chance by the Rebels and to now appreciate what I am doing, not where I am going. I am fortunate to have a new attitude when playing a game — that can sometimes drift away from us with the reality of professionalism.
Truth is, the reason why rugby is still alive, is for the people who play each week from grade to subbies, who have the “80-minute mindset”.
If I were 18, I wouldn’t be reading some dodgy newspaper column suggesting I “enjoy the moment” when all I wanted to do was play for the Wallabies. But I can tell you from experience that you won’t remember much if that’s your only incentive.
Tonight, I sit on a pine bench, in a position that many people would feel doesn’t merit mention on my resume.
But I have never been so proud to be wearing the No. 16 jumper.
From chasing jerseys to living the dream, this is one moment in time I will cherish, and who knows, maybe Robbie was right.
First published on 3rd June 2011 in The Sydney Morning Herald. “It is all about living in that 80-minute moment” – A SMH headline.