Big League Feature: Round 1

BRETT KIMMORLEY comes to the Bulldogs a seasoned veteran. But there’s a new spring in his step that he wants to use to lead his latest team to the finals. Interview by BEN HORNE.

How did you feel moving to a new club at this stage of your career?

I was excited. It was good for my confidence [last year] the Bulldogs were interested in signing me – and I think the reasons why we were both going to work together so well were good for me. Obviously I talk a fair bit on the field and lead the team around – they lacked that experience last year. I see it as a great challenge to play great footy here. This is a new test, with a lot of new players and a different playing style. It’s a different way for me to change again [after moving from Cronulla] and show that I can adapt to a new style. I feel like my best footy is back and certainly some of the players here who have signed I’m looking forward to playing with, particularly Michael Ennis. If he can play a bit of footy, I can just sit back and pick and choose when I want the ball and that’s when I play good footy.

What do you need to do to turn the Bulldogs around?

The leadership in the team will be good. Obviously I don’t shut up too often on the field and I give them good direction and I suppose just a bit of maturity. When you make a mistake or if the game isn’t going your way then we’ll pull our heads in and just work. I’ll do some ball-playing and, obviously sharing the kicking game between Mick and myself, we’d like to think we can play some good field position, and if you’re winning the field position you’re half a chance of winning the footy game.

How far can the Bulldogs go this season?

I don’t know. You don’t want to say your goals or say we’d be happy to finish here or there because you never know what kind of run the team can get on during the season... if we get an injury run it’s going to be a hard fight. As long as we come together as a footy side –we improve from Round 1 to Round 26 – then that’s a step in the right direction and if we get on a roll and start playing well then you set some goals. At the moment it’s making sure we get off to a good start and making sure we turn up and give it our best shot every week – then at least whoever plays us has to play pretty well to beat us.

After such a long and successful career so far, what drives you now?

Playing semi-final footy last year was exciting again and at Cronulla we hadn’t got there for the past few years; it was a good to get a taste of that again. In the first half of my career I played a lot of semi-final football and didn’t maybe appreciate it. Then when you go so long without playing semis it’s great to be a part of that again – I’d like to think I can play some semis again and I still have the drive to win another comp. The fun of playing footy came back last year. I think it got easy again and that’s why I’ve got through this off-season so easily; it wasn’t like going to work anymore, it was like going to the footy again.

Is your best football still in front of you?

Last year I was really happy after most games that I’d played at a really good standard. I did get stereotyped there for a while that I could only play flat and that was it, but I think last year and over the years I have evolved. I had a wonderful time the first few years when we were winning games, we won a comp and I played some rep footy. I think I’m a lot smarter now as a footballer than I was back then... just not as fast. I’m a lot more selective in what I do whereas back then it was all just 100 miles an hour.

Have you given up on playing State of Origin?

I haven’t given up, no. Whether my time is up I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll ever be the bloke who comes out and says ‘I’m going to retire from rep footy’. I just enjoyed playing and there’s some great memories and bad memories but I enjoyed it. I think Mick Ennis will certainly be pushing for his chance to play No.9 and obviously he and Farah now will fight over that position for a while. If Mick and I are going great, well, you never know if they will pick a combination.

Would you still consider moving to the English Super League?

I think it’s too hard for me to pack up and move now. Kids and life after footy were two things that weighed into me coming to the Bulldogs. The challenge coming here was wonderful for me and everything that I’ve become as a footballer. Becoming a leader and being a good family man suits this club really well, so I think it was a good match. With two kids now at school I just think it would be too hard for them to pack up and uproot them again just for two years. As long as I go home and see my kids with a smile on their face, that’s what makes me happy. The rest of my years will be settling in here at the club and for as long as I can play I’ll keep putting my hand up.

Does the game need to be able to reward players with more money to stop them going overseas?

Certainly rugby union has become a factor because of the dollars and I think we can look at relaxing a little bit on our third-party payments. With Darren Lockyer at the moment, if we could look at him being allowed to finish his career at the Broncos that would be wonderful. I don’t think it’s cheating on the cap. If you’re one of the players who can go out there and earn a little bit more, well they could look at it and take each case on its own merit rather than just saying no all the time.

You do a lot of work in the media for Fox Sports and 2UE. As a current player was it difficult to be outspoken on controversial issues involving team-mates like Greg Bird, for example?

That was definitely hard and I suppose a lot of times you’ve got to try and keep your emotions out of it. The hardest thing is when a player makes a mistake and you’re asked some heavier questions about it. I’m still a football player first and foremost but obviously I’m also working [in the media] at the same time. I’ve got some really strong beliefs on what I think our game is doing correctly and incorrectly but generally I’ll say part of my opinion but be very careful not to become an arrogant player who says ‘I think this’ all the time. I would like to think what we throw up either on the radio or on TV is something people at home can discuss and open some debate.
I think it’s better than me being closed-minded and [the listeners and viewers] thinking I’m an idiot.