North Queensland Cowboys’ Ben Hannant on the NRL’s future and being a proud father of six. By Jack Kerr.


Riding high: Ben Hannant, 31, rugby league player

The biggest highlight of my career was having all of my six kids on the field after winning the grand final last year. To be able to achieve something that hard and share it with your family is very rewarding. And you could see how much that meant to them, and how excited they were. Even going back to the beginning, family was how my love for the game started. Now, having my wife and kids coming, and my son being the ball boy, it’s the reason that I play the game.

I had a great time at the Broncos, so there were definitely mixed emotions after that match. I was ecstatic immediately after it, coming back and stealing it there at the death. But after celebrating for a few minutes, you’re seeing your ex-teammates on the ground pretty upset, you know the effort they’ve put in and they’ve only fallen one point short. You didn’t want to gloat that you were happy, but I guess that’s the nature of the beast. There has to be a winner and a loser. But I was very proud of both teams.

I don’t mind all the travelling we have to do at all. On the plane, you can listen to books, or the boys can watch movies. When we get off, our strength and conditioning staff get us into rehab: a swim, a stretch, a massage. And for me, having six kids, you always get a good night’s sleep when you’re on the road. That always helps. And I get a very quiet day compared to when I’m at home, where I’ll be chasing kids, doing school pick-ups, taking them to sports. That’s maybe a bit selfish, but I feel quite fresh on the road.

Some of the sheds around the country are certainly not up to standard. I’m someone that likes a nice hot shower after a game: you’re sore, you’re hurting, you do your ice baths, you’re freezing – and then you jump under a shower that’s run out of hot water, or is very low pressure, and it’s not enjoyable. It’s disgraceful!

We don’t do the pinch test anymore – we get our whole body scanned. We get tested all the time, so you know where you are at with weight and body mass. The fitness staff monitor your diet a fair bit, and if they’re happy with what you’re doing, they leave you alone. We had people over for a pork roast last night – and, yes, there was crackling.

There’s a big problem in Australia with gambling. It can hurt a lot of people and a lot of families. It comes down to everyone has a choice: some people know how to control it and do it in moderation, but there are people who don’t know how to do that. It’s a tough one – because it generates a lot of money for the game, but at the same time, if there can be a healthy balance, I think it would be a lot better than some situations.

I got involved with the Players Association when I was down at the Bulldogs. As a player, it’s good to know what’s going on in the game and where it is heading. And to have a voice and be involved not only for our generation, but the next generation of players coming through as well. It’s one of those things: we’ve got to look after the players of the game, and as players, we’ve got to do the right thing by the game as well.

With the NRL administration and the players working together, I see this game just growing in leaps and bounds. I’m very happy with the administration, the way that they’re running the game. They are businessmen, and you can see by the new TV rights deal it’s heading in the right direction. And the Players Association feel that they have a share of the game now as well.

In 20 years, you’ll have teams in Papua New Guinea or Fiji. At the moment, I think they are doing the right thing, not trying to expand too early. They are trying to make the teams here viable and profitable and be able to stand on their own two feet.

Melbourne Storm are very clinical. They run very good lines. They play for the full 80 minutes. They grind teams out. There’s five or six teams now like that, and I think the finals will come down to whoever is prepared, know their opposition well, and stick to their plan. It’s exciting for all the teams coming into finals – it definitely adds an extra emphasis on the way you prepare and the way you take to the field.

1 .  

2 . This week’s highlights…

Rio Olympic Games

Basketball – medal events, women’s, Sunday, from 12.30am (AEST);

men’s, Monday, from 12.30am (AEST)

Athletics – men’s marathon, Sunday, 10.30pm (AEST)

Closing ceremony – Monday, 9am (AEST)

AFL: North Melbourne v Sydney Swans

Saturday, 1.45pm (AEST), Blundstone Arena, Hobart

NRL: North Queensland Cowboys v New Zealand Warriors

Saturday, 7.30pm (AEST), 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville

Motorsport: Czech Republic MotoGP

Sunday, 10pm (AEST), Automotodrom Brno, Czech Republic

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on August 20, 2016 as "Riding high".

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Jack Kerr is a dual Australian Sports Commission Media Awards winner who writes about the business of sport.

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