Heading into his 15th first-grade pre-season campaign, Wests Tigers winger Pat Richards might have been forgiven for lacking some of the youthful energy and vigor that he had when he embarked on his first pre-season in the NRL.
But despite the fact that the former Parramatta Eels and Wigan Warriors winger isn’t the 18-year-old that he was back in 2000 and his pre-season training began in the rehabilitation group, Richards can sense the importance and the potential significance of 2015 pre-season training under new Head Coach Jason Taylor.
Speaking after another tough session in the Sydney heat, Richards said that while the break between seasons might have gone quickly, there’s no place he’d rather be than back on the field with his beloved Wests Tigers teammates.
“It’s good to be back on the field,” Richards said. “Pre-season training comes around so quick, and it’s just awesome to be back now with the boys.
"It’s a new setup here but everyone’s just excited to get better and continue to improve.”
“I’ve been with the rehab guys a bit over the last few weeks and I know there’s a lot of boys desperate to show what they can do next year.
“There’s a lot of guys that are coming along really well in their recovery — Mitch [Moses] is looking good, Tim [Simona] was obviously really good during the Four Nations after his injury issues towards the end of the year and Teddy [James Tedesco] is looking unreal — so that’s good news for all of us.”
With all three grades (NRL, Holden Cup and NSW Cup) training together until the Christmas break alongside the new coaching staff headed by Taylor, Richards said that this year’s pre-season was obviously proving to be one full of change, but also one that highlighted the positive signs of progress at the Club.
“I guess this year’s pre-season has a different feel with all the boys training [together] from all the grades,” he reflected. “It’s a very large squad.
“The video room gets pretty full, but all the young kids are doing well at training and jumping on board with all the new coaching staff so it’s exciting times.
“Pre-season is the hardest part of the year, but it’s enjoyable as well.”
Richards, 32, played 20 games for Wests Tigers in 2014 before succumbing to several niggling injuries towards the end of the season.
And while he might not have been able to finish the year as he would have liked, a team-high nine tries and 145 points showed that the veteran still has what it takes to mix it with what he calls the “young brigade”— something which he’s keen to do again in 2015.
“Every pre-season is different in their own little way, but I guess at my age now, the important thing is to make sure that you enjoy them,” Richards said.
“You never know how long you’re going to keep going [at a first-grade level] but I’m still enjoying it and I love coming to training at this Club.
“I’m still learning, and while I’m doing that, I’ll definitely keep going.”
“I had a good little break there, and I think that helped my recovery process.
“I started running last week and it’s starting to feel really good, so hopefully [this time] will allow me to get rid of all those niggles that I carried through the back end of the season.
"That’s what pre-season is for I guess, it’s about getting fit and getting your body back ready for the new season ahead.
“You really just want to build a good base for yourself in pre-season — both skill-wise, but also conditioning and speed wise,” Richards emphasised.
“It’s about getting all those little things that, once the season starts, they’re hard to improve on as much. So it’s about building those blocks now and and jumping on board with the new structures and changes that the coaching staff want.
“It’s an important part of the year, and if you can get pre-season right, it generally goes well during the season as well..."