Bronco boot camp about to pay off
His late arrival may have saved him from having to attend but Broncos forward Adam Blair believes the torturous pre-season boot camp the rest of the squad were put through will have its greatest pay-off in the finals series.
Due to his sudden switch from the Wests Tigers to Brisbane and his participation in the Four Nations tournament at the end of last season, Blair was spared from taking part but in six years under Craig Bellamy at Melbourne is well versed in how it tests both physical and mental capabilities.
Not one Broncos forward ranks in the top 75 in the NRL for missed tackles thus far in 2015 (only Matt Gillet and Alex Glenn figure in the top 140) and their tackle efficiency rating of 90.2 per cent is second in the competition.
They kept a clean sheet last Friday night against the Titans for the first time since late in their premiership year in 2006 and Blair said it is obvious that what they went through in the boot camp has hardened them to the challenges they face during a game.
"It's come up a fair bit," Blair said of the boot camp. "Everyone was giving it to me because I was the only one that missed out on it.
"The boys obviously went through some tough times there together and as footy teams you need those things because when times are tough on a footy field you know that your mate next to you is going to turn up for you and I think that's what it's instilled in the boys. Working for each other, not giving up on every play and it's been shown over the last 20 weeks.
"Going through some tough times with teammates, it's something that you get a reward for at the back-end of the season if you're there."
Outright competition leaders with six rounds remaining regardless of the result between the Cowboys-Eels game on Monday night, the Broncos are in perfect position to add a fifth minor premiership and their first since 2000.
On each of those four previous occasions Brisbane went on to claim the title (including the 1997 Super League crown) and captain Justin Hodges believes trust has played a critical role in the success of the playing group to date.
"Everyone's just trusting each other and it helps when you're winning as well," said Hodges. "When you're losing you're blaming the bloke next to you instead of yourself so I think this year everyone has taken on a whole lot of responsibility and trust in each other.
"No one is trying to make the play themselves, everyone is working hard for each other and that makes everyone's job a lot easier when you're not relying on a few players to do everything."
The mere mention of a boot camp is enough to cause Blair to break out in a cold sweat.
He casts his mind back to when, as a 16-year-old, he was brought across from New Zealand to link with the Melbourne Storm and a rookie coach by the name of Craig Bellamy.
It was his first exposure to rugby league and his initiation left a lasting impression.
"I've been on about three [boot camps] down there and I did my first one when I was 16," Blair told NRL.com.
"It was my first time ever playing rugby league coming over here and going straight into one of those things. I'd never thought I would play rugby league and going into one of those camps I thought, Bloody hell, this isn't for me and I'm not going to be a footballer if we're going to keep going on these. But I think that made me a stronger person.
"They told us to pack all our bags and me being me, I packed all my toiletries, extra clothes to keep warm thinking we were going to be sleeping in tents and stuff like that and getting there and it's the complete opposite.
"You don't shower, you just walk and you're trying to talk, you do push-ups, you walk up and down hills with packs on that are twice the weight of you and those were the things that I thought, This can't be me.
"If anyone had told me at that camp which one was going to run away, I would have been the first one to put my hand up.
"I guess at 16 you don't expect to be going on things like that and mentally, as a 16-year-old kid, you're just not there but I managed to kick through those tough times and come out the other end of it and I think that made me stronger and mentally tougher as a kid."