Sport Rugby League NRL: How clubs must manage the State of Origin letdown
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NRL: How clubs must manage the State of Origin letdown

Back at clubland: Ben Hunt (L) in action on the weekend. Photo: Getty
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State of Origin is the pinnacle of our game, but it has far too much impact on the results of NRL season games and ultimately the outcome of the competition.

This is not about to change any time soon, so for now clubs, coaches and players must work hard to give themselves the best chance of ensuring good results in July.

Players returning to their clubs after the thrill of Origin appear to have various strategies for returning strongly to help their teammates keep momentum.

I asked Ben Hunt following the Dragons victory over the Bulldogs what he did to get himself ready in the four-day period after Origin.

“I got a massage and did cryotherapy every day. Other than that, not much,” was his reply.

Cryotherapy, otherwise known as “cold therapy”, involves exposing the skin to extremely cold, dry air for one to three minutes and uses temperatures below -140C.

The science behind this treatment suggests that muscular tissue repair is accelerated dramatically.

Five days earlier: Ben Hunt playing for Queensland. Photo: Getty

Discussing the Origin-to-club challenge with Luke Lewis about his representative career, he felt that metal preparation was key to being ready for a return to club level.

“During the series there has to be a mentality of commitment to your club teammates,” he said. “This allows you to find the energy required to aim up for them.”

Looking back on his career, Lewis said his preparation improved once he understood the exacting toll the series took out of him.

“You feel guilty not being at training all the time and putting the effort in, in preparation,” he said.

“But if you don’t take time off it is not actually during the series where fatigue sets in, it’s the four to six weeks after that you really feel the lag and niggles start to show up.

The more mature I got, the better the understanding of the importance to rest up so I could help the team across the line late in the year”

The planning required in managing Origin players by club coaching staff has to take in a lot of variables.

We saw the Roosters and Knights have the luxury to rest players because of their place on the ladder, when teams like the Dragons needed all their Origin players on deck.

The Broncos have a lot of young players, who came in off a very short turnaround.

While their energy was there it was clear that the distraction of Origin football, coupled with not preparing with teammates, played a part in a sub-standard performance.

As Lewis said, the bigger challenge is not just about having a game-by-game strategy to address recovery from one game, but taking a whole series view on how to manage players.

If they come out victorious during Origin week does that mean they’ve achieved what they were looking for out of the year and do they take their foot off the gas?

Or if they lose the series does that affect their emotional state to a degree where confidence is knocked around?

The physical, mental and emotional rollercoaster these guys go through representing their states is what makes Origin the high point of our game.

Clubs must manage the physical and emotional impacts and those that do it best may just give all their players a buzz when they play in the first week in October.

Former St George player Matthew Elliott coached Canberra, Penrith and New Zealand Warriors in the NRL