Broncos captaincy candidate's off-season odyssey
Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough has spent the pre-season investing in personal development on and off the field, further strengthening his claims to the club's vacant captaincy position.
The youngest forward in Broncos history to reach 100 NRL games and the first player born in the 1990s to feature in the NRL, McCullough will start the 2016 season with the 200-game milestone within reach at just 26 years of age.
One of Brisbane's most consistent performers since making his NRL debut in 2008, McCullough has been happy to stay well clear of any of the spotlight but in recognition of his growing leadership role has undertaken additional media training during the pre-season.
The Dalby-born product has been polite if somewhat guarded when conducting interviews with the media in the past and recognised that it was an area of personal development that he needed to pay greater attention to.
"It's just something small that I can work on myself and how I present myself," McCullough told NRL.com.
"I'm a pretty laidback sort of guy and some things I probably need to put myself out of my comfort zone a bit which is that side of the media where I wouldn't feel as comfortable doing it as I should.
"That's your responsibility as you play more games, the media commitments and the way you present yourself and you also want to be able to talk properly into the camera."
Captain of the Broncos at last year's Auckland Nines and also in their Round 11 win over the Knights in Newcastle, McCullough was selected to attend a two-week camp in America in November with high performance manager Jeremy Hickmans and Brisbane teammates Matt Gillett, Dale Copley and Lachlan Maranta.
The group attended NBA games, met Dallas Mavericks future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki ("Even I knew him") and even featured in the half-time entertainment of an NHL game between the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs but there was a very serious side to their excursion.
The four players spent nine days at the Michael Johnson Performance Centre just north of Dallas where the Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Stars train, learning the latest training techniques and how it can benefit their individual games.
McCullough said that the area he focused on most was explosiveness that he hopes translates to more dynamic darts out of dummy half in the upcoming season.
"The training drills that I picked up and need to work on pretty hard were with regards to acceleration," he said.
"Obviously I'm not the quickest bloke going around but if it helps me to get out of dummy half and be able to work my body as well as it could be without having to go over the top then it can only be a good thing for my game.
"We did a lot of work on resistance to your legs, jumping and doing lots of rebounds. That's power out of dummy half or for Matt [Gillett] would be hitting a hole from one of the halves.
"That sort of resistance training was fairly impressive and something we don't do a lot of in rugby league.
"Prevention of injuries during a session was another thing. Stretching during your weight session after each exercise, little things like that that we don't do and after your session the way of cooling down or stretching was a lot different than what we normally do."
In addition to the individual aspects he has brought back to pre-season training, McCullough said that the entire squad is benefiting from the experience with Hickmans incorporating much of what they learned into their daily sessions.
"Rather than just running to here, it's a bit more specific now with the technique and with regards to changing angles," he said.
"The game's evolving and we're not running just for the sake of running now, it's changed to make it more specific to our game.
"It's something that [Hickmans] has taken back and really tried to implement into each speed day or fitness day where it can be used in our game to benefit us."