Aaron Woods is State of Origin’s chilled out hardman
DateMay 16, 2015 - 4:34PM
Daniel Lane - SMH
Sports reporter & Video journalist
Aaron Woods has needed only five State of Origin appearances for NSW to prove he’s a hard man, but should it really come as a surprise to learn the prop who appears as if he belongs to the “flower power” movement prefers the word “chill” to “kill” in the build-up to league’s annual civil war?
Woods, who despite being only 24, is viewed as one of the leaders at Wests Tigers, revealed his biggest lesson from being drafted into the Blues in 2013 was the mind could be as damaging as Sam Thaiday running so hard he’s a blur of Maroon, or Greg Inglis, eyes ablaze and set on the try line.
“I learnt a lot from my first Origin match,” Woods said. "I bought into the week too much and come game day, I was very flat, just tired.
"You do a lot of media; a lot of promotions; a lot of talking. [Coach] Laurie Daley will talk to you and that gets you fired up, but by the end, it all took its toll.
"Last year I took every day as it came. I was really laid back, didn’t buy into the hype. There was a bloke who I talked to every now and then and he’d calm me down when I was getting too excited. He’d say, ‘you’re playing for NSW, you’re really enjoying it’. My biggest lesson was not to buy into the hype because you pay for it on game day.
“It’s a very hard thing and you don’t realise until you play Origin how big the hype is and after it’s all over you think, ‘gee, I wasted a lot of time there’.”
Should Woods take the field at ANZ Stadium on May 27, he will commit himself to combating the Queensland pack, making the hard yards and putting his body on the line. His Wests Tigers teammates, such as former Australia centre Chris Lawrence and emerging star Curtis Sironen, rave about his leadership qualities: the “big engine” and his “toughness”, but Woods revealed he’s driven by one goal.
“I just don’t want to let anybody down,” he said quietly. "I have a role I need to perform for the team week in, week out. I don’t look at it too much as being a leader, but I’m conscious of the fact we have a lot of young blokes in the team and that it’s important to show them the way.
"When I came through we had Todd Payton, Liam Fulton, big Keithy Galloway, Gareth Ellis, Benji Marshall and Johnny Morris was here. We had a strong group of senior players and the traits they showed me when I was young are what I’m trying to share with the young boys.
"It’s not always about ability when you play first grade. You need to do everything you possibly can leading up to the game – you need to be at your best. I’ve learnt that over time.
"I wanted to learn as much as I could. I harassed Todd Payton because he’d played first grade since he was 18 and was in high school; same with Keith Galloway and Bryce Gibbs, they were the front-rowers and I listened to them. If they said to do something I did it.
“They had high expectations and you can’t fluff your way through it.”
Woods hasn’t restricted his insights to the Tigers’ cubs. This season he’s helping his friend Josh Reilly-Quoy coach the Leichhardt Juniors under-16s and he said they’re both determined to teach the teenagers more than footy skills.
“A good bunch of kids, but they’re at that age where we’re trying to keep them away from the sheilas,” he said. "A few of them have been late to training, but I think their punishment is keeping them honest – laps.
"I was a kid who asked a million questions and these kids are the same and it’s pretty cool. I get to talk to them and I see a bit of myself in them in the way they love their football.
"But Josh – he’s coached them since they were in the under-9s – and I are teaching them it’s also about school and sometimes you need to let them know what’s right and wrong.
“We base being a member of this team on respect for elders. We tell them to shake hands, to introduce themselves to people because Josh and I know the ability to have a conversation goes a long way. It’s not just rugby league for these kids, it’s teaching people skills.”