Before And After

from Chasing Mavericks

It’s the lead into the first Test against Australia. Shit just got real.

Denis Betts Rugby World Cup 2017

Denis has just finished an ‘average’ lunch and is taking a few minutes by himself to walk along the beach. I say by himself – this is the time he has to speak to me.

“Trying out your new shorts?”

“Yep. Walking along the beach at Scarborough. Not Scarborough England”.

“Thanks for the reminder”.

“The sun’s shining, I’ve got my shoes off, I’m watching some people surfing the waves. It’s rubbish”.

Deciding that Denis is having far too much fun I change the conversation to the forthcoming game against Affiliated States, a team made up of players from four Australian territories,

“Kick off for tonight’s game is 7.30?”

“To be honest, even though their players are at a good standard, it’s more of a training session. There’ll be four, 20 minute quarters. We will take it seriously but it’s a necessary evil. Everyone involved in the team needs contact. No matter how you replicate match-play in training, when you haven’t played for a number of weeks, it’s not same”.

“There must be worries about injuries where, no matter the score you can’t really win?”

“Those in front of you are going to be up for it. It’s a big game, a big day for them. We need fifty points plus and yes, you could get hurt which is why we need to be as focused and committed was possible. The last thing we need is someone smashing into Sam. It only takes one random act of madness”.

“Hopefully that won’t happen”.


I leave Denis to his last few minutes of soaking up the sun and watching the surfers.


One Job Done

The England Rugby League Dressing Room

When we next talk, the game has gone as expected with England securing a 74-12 victory. I ask Denis if he’s happy with the performance,

“The main thing was to bash others rather than ourselves and there were some big bodies out there. So yep, job done”.

It’s not hard to sense the shift in Denis’ mood and attitude. It’s as if last nights’ game was the ‘tipping point’ and now things have got serious. I put this to Denis and he agrees,

Now it’s all about how we prepare, deliver and react. It’s the attitude we carry into the game. It’s getting exciting. It’s the reason you want to be here. All that build up is over at we’re in business.

“Now it’s Test match week. There’s a reason they call it a test. Now it’s all about how we prepare, deliver and react. It’s the attitude we carry into the game. It’s getting exciting. It’s the reason you want to be here. All that build up is over at we’re in business”.

“Shit just got real?”

“Shit just got real”.

Getting real includes the official launch of the World Cup that requires Head Coach Wayne Bennett and the team captain, Sean O’Loughlin, flying to Brisbane to be part of the ceremonial proceedings. This leaves the squad in the tender hands of Denis and the rest of the coaching team before they fly to Melbourne. I point out the obvious to Denis that he and the players have another dose of jet lag to look forward to. Denis is just relieved he’s not hitting the road,

“Listen to this. Because of the weight of all our kit it’s too expensive to air freight it, so a group of four guys are going to have to drive it all cross-country. That’s two days driving!”

“Rather them than me. What’s the job in hand before you fly?”

“Now it’s reviews for me and sleep, eat with hard recovery for the players”.

“Hard recovery?”

“Ice baths, massages. A couple are a bit sore because they hadn’t played or done anything for six weeks. I’ll adjust our training session in line with my conversation with Wayne after reviewing the training from last week. It’s Test week so everybody has got to be bang on. Bang on message and bang on task. It’s about keeping everyone, healthy, positive and on message”, he pauses, “Connected”.

This comment seems a fitting place to end our call but I can’t help raise the really important stuff,

“Nailed your first week’s Burpees?”

“Yeah, 430 in five days and I’ve Done 500 over six days. Moving forward I’m going to nail them all in five days but I’ve been a bit sore this week as I’ve been training with the boys most days. I’ve been jet lagged, with a tight hip-flexor and a sore neck. I underestimated the impact of the flight but I’m powering through. The lads think I’m mad”.

Watch the film and decide for yourself:

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