Sport

Waratahs and Wallabies prop Benn Robinson on maintaining the passion. By Richard Cooke.
Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Rock solid: Benn Robinson, 30, rugby player

How did I end up the Waratahs’ most capped player? I came in to the sport with a true love for the game. I love playing rugby union – even when we come up with a loss, there’s still a genuine passion for the game there.

Now I’m older, I’m starting to see some of the young players come through. To see their success, and to see how hard they’ve worked to get to this point and the rewards they get from that as well, that side also keeps me going. 

When I lose that competitive streak then I’ll hang the boots up. But as we speak, right now, I’m still a very competitive person. I still strive to be a better player – I don’t think I’ve reached my full potential, I don’t think I’ve learnt all the skills out there at the moment. As the game changes week by week, year by year, then I’m going to still grow as a player. 

I hate losing scissors paper rock. Even with my girlfriend, I’m very competitive. She wants to scissors paper rock me to make tea and I hate losing. I hate losing anything – ping-pong, playing pool. I think it’s just natural for most sportspeople to be very competitive. I have dropped off in my competitiveness in the kitchen recently. I love cooking though.

I was very lucky I started my career in a successful team. I came into the Waratahs when they were headed into the finals. So that early part of my career really set me up for where I am now. There was a work ethic where players worked really hard, the senior players really dominated the team and really, I suppose, set the standard there as well. I think we moved away from that a bit later on – I suppose in 2010, 2011. 

I feel like there’s definitely been a step up in professionalism in the club. That competitive nature in training, the willingness to get better in training, the willingness to work harder in training – I feel like it has really increased. And that’s not saying that in previous years the side was a slacking side, it’s just the way it operated was different. When I came in, in the mid-2000s, it was a little different. The teams still trained really hard but I think there’s a lot more accountability and we’ve got GPS markers now where you can see the level of training, the pace of training, how many kilometres are run, your movement and so forth. There are a lot more eyes on us. I think it breeds success.

Props have had that stigma as being not the smartest guys. I think now people realise the dark art of the scrum, and a lot of people take a lot of interest in it, so we acquire a lot of techniques, commit a lot of hard work. There’s a lot of brainpower there as well. The props now worry about the scrum – it’s a full pack they’re concerned with. Clearly it’s 9s and 10s that make the majority of the decisions for the sides, but if they make it right up front, then they can’t get that clean ball that they want.

Injuries really do hurt you. Especially early on in your career, it really does cut. That still happens now, but I think you’re a very lucky person to go through your career and not get an injury. To go through and play at the top of your game, 100 per cent, year in and year out. There’s only a few who have really done that: George Smith is one; George Gregan; probably at the moment Adam Ashley-Cooper. Not to say that it doesn’t hurt when you get injured, you know, physically, mentally, the whole lot, but I think for me at my age, looking back on it, the tough times make you a more rounded person.

What do the Waratahs have to do to win? It’s easy to say “score points against the opposition”, but I think this year was tougher for us. Teams had a better understanding of how we play. 

If I ever lose my intent, then I don’t want to be a hanger-on. I want to definitely add to the side and keep pushing the side. I don’t know how I worded it to [Waratahs coach] Michael Cheika, but I said if I lost that streak to get better year by year, then I don’t see myself as an asset to the side.

This week’s highlights…

• NRL: St George Illawarra Dragons v North Queensland Cowboys

Saturday, 7.30pm (AEST). WIN Stadium, Wollongong

• Cycling: Tour de France – Stage 1

Saturday, 9.30pm (AEST), Utrecht, The Netherlands

• Motorsport: Formula 1 – British Grand Prix

Sunday, 10pm (AEST). Silverstone Circuit, Northamptonshire

• Rugby League: State of Origin III – NSW v Queensland 

Wednesday, 8pm (AEST), Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

• Cricket: Ashes First Test – England v Australia

From Wednesday, 8pm (AEST), Sophia Gardens, Cardiff

• AFL: Port Adelaide v Collingwood

Thursday, 7.20pm (ACST), Adelaide Oval

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 4, 2015 as "Rock solid". Subscribe here.

Richard Cooke
is a journalist and writer for television. He is The Saturday Paper's sports editor.