It’s only the first full day of NSW Under-18 camp, but Shawn Blore already considers his teammates as ‘brothers’.
The NSWRL Pathways Program ensures this group of players train together, eat together, learn together and camp together on multiple occasions in the past eight months, cancelling the need to waste ice-breaking hours once they arrive into Origin camp.
Instead, they immediately had a trademarks session with Performance Psychologist Steve Johnson, where the players set their own standards for the camp and the upcoming match. This puts the responsibility and accountability on the players, which is a smart move considering they will need to rely on each other come Wednesday night.
“The relationship has always been there from the start, now that we’re all here it’s kind of like going into camp with your brothers,” Blore says to NSWRL.com.au.
“It’s been really good, the boys have bonded really well so early and we’ve come up with a few team goals and team curfews I guess you could say; the boys are trying to stick to them.
“The days are still early, we’re about to go into a few training sessions before we go into the game and we’ll see how we go from there, but the boys have bonded really well so early.”
The importance of responsibility and accountability for these players is great considering their match is going to be amplified at the biggest stadium in Australia as the curtain-raiser to one of the biggest annual sporting events in the country.
At 5.15pm next Wednesday, Blore and his teammates will run out onto the Melbourne Cricket Ground before Game I of the highly anticipated State of Origin series, where 80,000 people are expected to attend.
It’s a huge moment for each of the players, and while they won’t be getting ahead of themselves early in the camp, the excitement of playing at the MCG is certainly there for Blore.
“There are not many people that get to say that they’ve run out on the Melbourne Cricket Ground,” Blore says.
“It’s something I’ll be definitely looking forward to and something special for my family, as well as all of these boys too.
“As I said, who gets to run out at the Melbourne Cricket Ground? It’s going to be very special, especially against the Queenslanders, hopefully we can come away with the win.”
Win, lose or draw, playing this match just adds to what has been an amazing 2018 for Blore.
He captained the Penrith Panthers to the 2018 SG Ball Premiership last month, before leading his side to the National State Final against the Souths Logan Magpies, where they won 38-32.
Blore has been playing with some of those teammates since he can remember lacing a boot, making those two victories even more special.
“Playing with a good bunch of boys that I’ve been playing with since six or eight years old to do that on a big stage like that is something special that the boys can take away and something that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.” Blore says.
“[The State Final] was definitely one of the toughest games I’ve been in, they just wouldn’t lay down those boys especially in their own backyard.
“The camaraderie between the boys, the way we handled ourselves, we grinded it out in the end there and it was something special.”
The Under-18s State of Origin match will be streamed live on NSWRL.com.au.