Off The Leash: Adam MacDougall

How good was the footy last weekend! I know a lot of fans would have chewed their fingernails down after some tight games. Parramatta and Cronulla fans in particular will still be asking how their teams lost.

Self-belief is what separates the top teams from the rest. In today’s game, the mental part is now more important than ever. All teams are very equal these days when it comes to physical ability as they have similar training facilities and eat the same. This was not always the case, though. A few teams in the past struggled financially and were unable to afford the same level of fitness equipment and professionalism as others.

Many clubs have now hired sports psychologists and team-building consultants to help them develop a winning culture. However no amount of positive affirmations or visualisation can boost a team’s self-belief more than winning. This was evident in both the Roosters’s and Sea Eagles's last-minute wins in Round 3. Manly, despite not playing at their best and appearing down and out, were able to clutch victory from a Parramatta side that still lacks self-belief after so many years of losing. Despite being the better team for 79 minutes, Manly won due to their self-belief when their backs were against the wall. That’s what winners do.

The Parramatta players started to tighten up with the winning post in sight. Their play became stiff and conscious. That little voice of self-doubt became louder; while the Manly players’ subconscious instinct took over and their play and minds sharpened, finding a way to win.
 
This experience for both the Eels and Sea Eagles strengthened each of their habits. For Manly the habit of winning, and unfortunately for Parramatta the habit of losing, which has now taken them to 613 days since they have won a game away from home.

The Roosters, last year’s premiers, also looked gone for all money against the Broncos on Friday night, but their winning culture also helped them to find a way to win. Wests Tigers and Dragons fans will be hoping their club’s recent success is starting to build their team’s confidence and self-belief.
 
In rugby league, as in life, confidence and self-belief is everything and will determine this year’s premiership again. With 20 rounds still to go in the 2014 season there is plenty of time for teams to discover this with a few good wins, or just as much time to self-destruct!

* Big League is on sale from Thursday in newsagents and at all NRL games. Look for the Angry Birds on the cover!