Bailey eager to defy Father Time
His days of being a karate kid may be far behind him but Titans prop Luke Bailey has revealed the training regime that is enabling him to deny Father Time and continue his career in the NRL.
While good friends Ben Hornby and Dean Young finished their playing careers in 2012 and Matt Cooper and Jason Ryles followed suit in 2013, Bailey is the only Dragons player from his debut season in 2000 preparing to line up again in 2014.
And he doesn't want it to end there.
With Craig Gower's future uncertain, Lote Tuqiri's return to rugby union and the retirements of Ryles, Cooper, Danny Buderus, Joe Galuvao, Shaun Berrigan and Nathan Fien, only Fuifui Moimoi has Bailey covered for age in the NRL next season but the Titans workhorse has indicated that if his body feels as good in 12 months time as it does today then he'll be keen to continue playing past the age of 35.
Bailey is not currently engaged in full training with a Titans pre-season squad decimated by World Cup commitments but says the surgery on his ankle may in fact help to prolong his career in the top grade.
"I'm not training with the guys on the paddock but for me personally it's more of a blessing in disguise because come Christmas I'll be eager to run whereas the boys will be looking to get some rest," Bailey said. "I'll be bouncing around, as it was last year with my Achilles, so it's something of a freshen-up."
As much as he is not completing the gruelling field sessions in the south-east Queensland heat, Bailey credits never giving his body a complete rest in helping to maintain his longevity in the game, confounding even those who have played alongside him.
"They're surprised because I look the oldest; they thought I'd been retiring since I was about 29 so they've become used to me not giving it away," Bailey revealed. "The body feels good... I think 'Coops' was weighing up his options and thinking about running around again but thought the time was right and I'm sure I'll know when the time is right but it's not in the near future anyway. I'll see how the body holds up this year.
"Over the last couple of years I've just tried to not stop training. I've found it's hard if you stop completely so during the off-season I've just kept training two or three days a week to keep fit and that makes it a hell of a lot easier."
Although effusive in his praise for the contribution the foundation co-captain has made to the club, Titans coach John Cartwright made it clear that it will be performance and not sentiment that determines whether Bailey will remain a Titan in 2015.
"It was the same last year, he wanted to see how his body held up and there are a couple of guys in the same boat who are coming off contract," Cartwright said.
"We're in a fortunate position I suppose in that if those guys are playing well then we're going to want to keep them; if not, it's going to leave us some room in our salary cap."
Two more seasons in the NRL will put Bailey within reach of joining the NRL 300 club and while he admits the 'roundhouse kick' learned at karate lessons as a kid is no longer part of the repertoire, the 251-game veteran says the intensity of cross-training gets his body ready for the rigours of another NRL season.
"Just the cross-fit style of fitness, weights combined with circuit training," said Bailey. "That's all I did last year pretty much in the gym, weights combined with the rowing machine and the bike and chin-ups and all that cross-fit stuff.
"If you do an hour of it it's like two hours of training and keeps your legs a bit fresh as well. That's something I've been doing the past 18 to 24 months and that seems to work."