Robbie Rochow: ‘The end goal is finals again’
Robbie Rochow has missed more football than he’s played over the past five years, but is determined to make the finals again.
Through pec, wrist, back and hip injuries, a few surgeries and the stiff competition for spots across four NRL clubs, Rochow has only played 34 games in the last five years.
You wouldn’t blame him if he felt a bit sorry for himself, but that’s not the Wests Tigers forward’s style.
He can even see the brighter side in the long list of injuries he’s dealt with.
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“The surgeries wear you down a little bit, but missing games and injuries - while it isn’t ideal - it’s allowed me to focus on other things in my life,” Rochow told Sporting News.
"I’ve got a great family and I’ve nearly finished my engineering degree, which is probably not something I’d be as far along with.
"I feel like my personal development is still growing whether I play five or 25 games a year. Ideally, I’d have liked to play every game every year, but sometimes you’re dealt some cards.
“It is what it is.”
Rochow’s extensive injury list could have derailed many other budding footy careers, but he realised early on that life is about balance.
Footy can’t be the only thing that gets him out the door every morning.
“I remember talking to a few guys at Newcastle, and I’d never really had that down period where I doubted myself or questioned my identity and stuff like that,” he said.
"I never felt that to the extent of some others, and I think I deal with it better now that I’m older.
“Maybe when I was younger I wouldn’t have looked after myself as well, but I wouldn’t change anything.”
Having starred in a firing Tigers side in the first third of the 2018 season, Rochow was struck down by a hip injury and finished the year in reserve grade.
With the likes of Elijah Taylor, Chris Lawrence, Michael Chee-Kam, Matt Eisenhuth and others all in the mix, the competition for second row spots in Michael Maguire’s team will be fierce heading into the 2019 season.
After the run of injuries he’s had, Rochow says it’s been a while since he was in the shape he’s in ahead of this season.
“The body feels a lot better than it did this time last year,” he said.
"Last year and in previous years, I don’t think I’ve been 100% but I feel a lot stronger, my endurance is better and I feel a lot better in contact collisions.
“So, my body is feeling a lot better now than it did a year ago, which is not common when it comes to rugby league players in their late 20s.”
The Tigers’ only pre-season hit out is against the Warriors in New Zealand on March 2, and Rochow says one of his big goals is to play first-grade again.
With three finals games to his name from his days at the Knights, Rochow is also adamant on cracking the top eight.
“My main goal is playing consistent footy and staying in good physical shape and I think good things will happen off that,” he said.
"I’ve got a really good understanding of the game and I really enjoy working off some of the forwards here.
"They all bring different strengths, and working out how you can add to that really keeps you interested and working on different areas that can get a little mundane.
"The end goal is to play finals again - it’s been a while since I played finals footy. Once you make finals, a whole new competition starts, it’s exciting and it’s the ultimate test.
“It’s a few games in a row that are extremely hard to win and that’s what you play rugby league for.”
2019 to be Farah’s last
Wests Tigers turn to drill sergeants to break longest NRL finals drought
Fatima Kdouh, The Daily Telegraph
February 19, 2019 11:04am
Being woken up in the middle of the night to push tanks around an army base.
Yes, things are being done at bit differently at the Wests Tigers these days.
True to his reputation as hard and c, new coach Michael Maguire has turned to drill sergeants as the Tigers look to break the longest finals drought in the league, having not gone beyond the regular season since 2011.
Luke Brooks told The Daily Telegraph that Maguire sent his troops to a brutal camp during the pre-season to help galvanise the players.
“We had an army camp for a few days out at Holsworthy. They woke us up in the middle of the night to go push some big tanks. We were all in groups and each group had to push one each,” he said.
“It’s the kind of thing you go through that brings you closer together, knowing you can get through a tough time like that.
“It was so tough that I’ve already put it in the back of my mind. All I know is I definitely won’t be joining the army anytime soon.”
Wests Tigers teammates Luke Brooks and Benji Marshall. Picture: Brett Costello
The Tigers gave up a great opportunity to break their finals drought last season, falling apart late after leading the competition early.
But it was a great individual season for Brooks who was named the Dally M Halfback of The Year, an award he says is a sign he’s maturing as a playmaker.
“Last year was a big step in the right direction in that aspect of my game. I think the more experience you get the more confidence you get and I’m building in that area,” he said.
Maguire is yet to finalise his spine with his hooker and five-eighth spots up for grabs, but the coach has been very clear in what he is expecting from Brooks.
“He wants me to take control me and he wants me to get the team around the park. That’s my job as a halfback and that’s something that will be key for me,” he said.
Wests Tigers train at Concord Oval ahead of their opening round game against the Roosters this weekend. Luke Brooks during a training drill. Picture: Toby Zerna
Brooks, 24, says he is ready to take ownership of the Tigers and that he has no plans to take a back seat to the usually more dominant playmakers in the side, Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah.
“Even though there are players who have played a lot more than me it doesn’t mean I can’t tell them what to do.” he said.
“I think we have a good balance there in the spine between myself Benji, Robbie, Moses (Mbye) and also Grubb (Josh Reynolds) there as well.”
Reynolds and Marshall are both vying for a chance to start at five-eighth and Brooks says he is happy to just sit back and watch the battle between the two unfold.
“I think they are both similar sort of players, they are both running halves. They are both great for the team,” Brooks said.