Kangaroos set to RISE
It was April 2016 and day one of preparation for the traditional Anzac Test against arch rivals New Zealand.
The Kangaroos were no longer the 'Invincibles' or the 'Unbeatables'. In fact, they were no longer the number one team in the world.
The previous year Australia lost their only Test against New Zealand. It was their third loss in a row to the Kiwis, made even more humiliating by the fact it was played on home soil at Suncorp Stadium. The Kangaroos fielded a star-studded team that night, most of whom were in the room now with new Head Coach Mal Meninga.
Meninga addressed the group and began talking about the origins of the Kangaroos. The fact that our jersey features a chevron, a military sign for victory. How fortunate we are to be associated with a Kangaroo. So synonymous with our country it features on the Coat of Arms.
He spoke about history. About the success of the past, the pride and the spirit that has united players regardless of whether they are from New South Wales or Queensland.
He spoke about humility and respect for the jersey.
"The RISE, it just happened organically," Mengina said.
"When I had the conversation with the players in Newcastle about what it means to be a Kangaroo, I just needed to find out from them if there was a disconnect from the jersey.
"What I found was they didn't lack any passion for the jersey but there needed to be a purpose."
From there the players took over and spoke about their origins. About their DNA. Where they come from, who they are and what being in the room means.
One by one, each shouted out a word or gave an insight into their inspirations. Their struggles. It became apparent that while each of their motivations may be different, there were some words that transcended the entire group.
"Through conversation… we came upon a set of words that was synonymous and consistent with how the players felt about the green and gold jersey," Meninga said.
Respect. Inspire. Selfless. Excellence.
Fast forward to November 2016 and the Four Nations tournament in the UK. The Kangaroos had just defeated England 36-18 to set up a Four Nations Final against arch-rivals New Zealand.
Following on from the origins of the RISE concept six months earlier, the Kangaroos were looking for a way to propagate the idea and turn it into something physical. Veteran Australian forward Sam Thaiday suggested a 'bush poem'.
"As fate has it, Sam was the one who talked about it and unfortunately he got injured against the English in London," Meninga said.
"He was sitting in his bed and he just wrote this poem. It was great.
"I got Sam to read it out to the players the night before the final."
Thaiday's ode was from the heart. Written as a Kangaroos player and as a proud Australian. It had an instant impact on his teammates and has become one of the key pillars of the RISE mantra.
"I just wanted them to really think about the words. That was something that meant something to me, and I hope meant something to them," Thaiday said.
"They absolutely loved it, which was fantastic. There were a few tears as well from some of the players.
"I think some of the words reminded them of things they had gone through in life. A bit of adversity and the challenges of becoming a rugby league player."
The origins of the RISE campaign are unique. No brief, no research, not even an agency. Just a room full of the best Rugby League players in Australia.
The RISE concept translates across not just the players in that room but all players, men and women, who represent Australian Rugby League.