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Ahead of the Bledisloe Cup, Wallaby Bernard Foley talks about the challenge of facing the mighty All Blacks. By Richard Cooke.
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In it for kicks: Bernard Foley, 25, rugby player

I missed the Adam Goodes story at first. It sort of skipped through, because we were overseas. I’m only just getting back, and I haven’t even really read up about it too much. But I think it’s disappointing that a bloke of such high regard, when he expresses himself, and expresses his heritage and his background, cops some flak for it.

The biggest misconception fans have? That players are more than human. The players know they’ve definitely got a responsibility in being role models, but people do have feelings, people do want to express themselves. And in the case of Adam Goodes, he did something to touch on his background and where he’s come from, and he’s been vilified for that. 

Every kick is a different kick. So regardless of your technique and your consistency, you’ve got to go into it with that mindset, with a clear mind, knowing your routine. Doing that consistently is probably what goal kicking’s all about – it’s removing the variables. Within your mind, and also within your set-up, within your run-up, within the conditions.

It is a challenging aspect of the game, but something as a kicker you get to relish. Your responsibility for the side is to kick goals, so there’s no point being daunted or scared by the task. You’ve just got to enjoy it and get the most out of every kick and relish that opportunity.

I’m not a superstitious type. I take a more relaxed approach. Some guys always have to make their last kick before they get off the field. I try and keep it so if you kick a good one before or you kick a bad one, there’s not much taken to the next kick.

Adjusting to the game is what this position is all about. A lot of people go out and kick when they’re fresh, and they’re able to kick 50 balls or have shots at goals, but in a game it’s a lot more entwined with fatigue or stresses. You’ve got to sort of practise that in the training as well. It’s a bit like being at the golf driving range. You can be really good at the driving range, but once you go onto the course, your game goes to pieces. I think you’ve got to practise in game conditions, and that’s the only way you can get yourself right or prepare yourself properly to kick in games.

I loved playing rugby sevens. I think with my introduction to professional football – even the travel to play in some of the great stadiums – was a great experience for me. The demands of having to travel as a young bloke, or going training overseas after getting on 20-hour flights, or playing in great stadiums such as Twickenham or Hong Kong in front of big crowds. Sevens allows you to hone the fundamental skills of rugby. If you don’t have them, you get found out pretty quickly. You’ve got to have a good passing game, you’ve got to have good spatial awareness, you’ve got to have a good kicking game. Defence, too. So for me it’s great to work on the different fundamentals of the game, get my body into a great shape, and meet all the demands of my professional football career.

The Wallabies have come a long way in the past six months. I know the things that [coach Michael] Cheika has implemented since that spring tour have made the players a lot better, and we’re finding a way to try to come together. To take the best things out of all the Super Rugbys, all the different teams and styles, and put them together in one entity. It’s going to serve us really well.

The All Blacks are the number one side for a reason. They’ve been there for a long time. And it’s been a long time since Australia’s won the Bledisloe Cup, but we really want to try to bridge that gap and test ourselves with the best in the world. The two games that we played here last year, we were separated by one point, so it’s exciting times for us, and we look forward to the challenge.

Now we’re all playing under the same banner. That unity is hopefully going to pay off down the track. The things that have been implemented, the guys are really buying into, and you can already notice a bit of a difference.

This week’s highlights…

• Swimming: FINA World Championships

Saturday and Sunday, finals from 12.30am (AEST), Kazan, Russia

• AFL: West Coast Eagles v Hawthorn

Saturday, 5.40pm (AWST), Domain Stadium, Perth

• Bledisloe Cup: Wallabies v All Blacks

Saturday, 8.05pm (AEST), ANZ Stadium, Sydney

• NRL: Melbourne Storm v Gold Coast Titans

Sunday, 2pm (AEST), AAMI Park, Melbourne

• Netball World Cup: Australia v New Zealand 

Sunday, 2.20pm (AEST), Allphones Arena, Sydney

• Cricket: Women’s Ashes Test, day 1 – England v Australia

Tuesday, 8pm (AEST), St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 8, 2015 as "In it for kicks". Subscribe here.

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

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