For a man who has endured such exhilarating highs and crushing lows in a career that has spanned almost 13 seasons, it’s unfortunate that even Braith Anasta’s 250th NRL game this weekend remains somewhat bittersweet.
On a personal level, it’s an achievement of great pride for the Sydney Roosters captain, who admits that for the first time he is now eyeing the 300 club as a realistic goal.
Yet with the Roosters’ season hanging by a thread and an air of uncertainty hanging over the club as players come and go, Anasta hasn’t yet reconciled the sudden departures of team-mates Sam Perrett and Anthony Mitchell last week, nor the circumstances surrounding his impending move to Wests Tigers in 2013.
“I wouldn’t say it’s ideal,” Anasta told NRL.com this week ahead of his 250th NRL game against Cronulla on Sunday. “It’s a little bit unsettling with all of this player movement happening. It’s obviously part and parcel of the game now but unfortunately for us this year it’s been a huge part of it.
“We’ve just had a couple of players leave and there are rumours about other players (namely Sonny Bill Williams) coming next year. There is a lot of movement going on at our club which is not ideal but you’ve just got to deal with it. It’s an unusual circumstance to be in but that’s where we find ourselves and we just have to make sure we get the best out of the players that are at the club now.”
Asked about the loss of Perrett, who joined the Bulldogs last week and will make his debut in the blue and white after nine years at Bondi, Anasta replied: “Sammy is one of my closest mates at the club. Me, him and Mini have been here the longest and it’s very sad to see him go. But there isn’t a lot I can do about that. I just wish him the best at the Bulldogs.”
Nevertheless, Anasta insisted he will lead his side onto Toyota Stadium on Monday night full of pride. Having debuted for Canterbury in 2000 and played 110 games for the club – including a grand final win in 2004 – he has since added 139 games for the Roosters and becomes just the 74th player to reach the 250 milestone.
“I’m pretty proud of it. It’s been a long career and it’s still going so… 250 this week, it’s definitely a milestone that I’m very proud of and one I never thought I would achieve early on,” he said, admitting he had spent plenty of time this week reflecting.
“It makes you think about how long you’ve been around. It’s 13 seasons for me now so I’ve been here for a long time and I’ve been through a lot through footy – some really, really good times and some average times.
“But that’s just been my life story, you know? I’ve been involved in a lot but that is what has made me the person I am today. You become pretty thick-skinned and you learn how to handle certain situations. It has given me the knowledge and the experience having been in situations that I never thought I would have been in.
“But I’m grateful for it. I don’t regret anything. To have had the opportunity to play as many games as I have – I’ll cherish it for the rest of my life.”
Set to join Wests Tigers next year on a two-year deal, Anasta also admitted that the thought of reaching 300 career games was a motivating factor in his decision to continue playing beyond 2012.
“I had never thought about 300 and it wasn’t something I ever set as a goal but now that it is sort of in sight it is definitely something I would like to achieve,” he continued. “I’ve got two years coming up at the Tigers, and touch wood the body holds up. The body being in the shape it is now, I should get there so it’s another challenge for me.”
Anasta’s impending move west came as quite a shock when it was originally announced in March but subsequent events have pointed to the club rebuilding its entire playing stocks from next season, with James Maloney an early signing, Manly’s Michael Oldfield set to replace Perrett and rumours that the club is clearing the decks for the impending arrival of Sonny Bill Williams.
Despite the mass upheaval, Anasta insisted that 2012 shouldn’t be seen as a rebuilding year.
“I don’t [see it that way] but I think some might disagree with me,” he said. “You could say that some people are looking towards next year – the fans and people you see in the street – but I’m certainly not. I want to do well this year and even though it’s a young squad I wouldn’t call it rebuilding.
“I think it’s about people reaching their potential and for our young blokes having the belief that they can do it. They’ve seen how good they can play at times but it is about recognising how good they really are. We’ve got a great young squad here at the club. They’re going to be strong in years to come but they can still be strong this year.”
The Roosters head to Cronulla this week with their season very much on the line. Having started the year strongly, they have lost seven of their past nine matches to sit in 14th spot and four points outside the eight.
Anasta said it was important that he departed the club on a high note, with a finals berth still very much on his 2012 agenda.
“We’ve just got to take each week as it comes and as long as the belief is there I reckon we’re still a chance,” he said.
“I’ve always got high hopes. Coming into the season I was confident we were going to have a really good year. It was a bit of the unknown because we do have a very young squad and we weren’t sure how everyone was going to handle it, so you can never tell how you’re going to go really, you just prepare the best you can. But there is still a long way to go and we’re very confident of turning it around.”