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The Invaluable Lesson Boxing Has Taught NSW

When you're destined for success in any professional sporting landscape, talent is certainly not enough.

Everyone in the entire Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues playing squad who helped claim a historic series victory all have unique and unrivalled athletic ability, but even they know that talent can only get you so far.

It's a core lesson that Brad Fittler and his coaching staff have instilled into the new-look side since Day One of camp, as they look to turn the best Rugby League athletes into Origin players.

And while training with the ball-in-hand has been pivotal in their development on and off the field, boxing has proven to be just as imperative as they each learn the value of persistence and perseverance.

You saw the morale when we finished, everyone hugging each other, but [it was] also the mindset of a fighter.

Hayden Knowles

And that's exactly what Anthony Mundine, Tyson Pedro, Tai Tuivasa, Bilal Akkawy and Wally Carr have all brought to youthful Origin side. 

"We brought in Tai Tuivasa who's taken the heavyweight division at the UFC by storm at the moment...he played Rugby League for the Roosters as an under-20s player and now he's fighting on the world's biggest stage," Performance Coach Hayden Knowles told

"Tyson Pedro, another UFC fighter whose discipline and whose commitment to his craft is something I want the boys to feel some inspiration from.

"'Choc' Mundine needs no real introduction, the greatest ever cross-code athlete in our country.

"We brought in Bilal Akkawy who helped us in camp two; he's a weapon, he's hungry, he's going all the way too and the boys feel that passion.

"And the other one we brought was Wally Carr [who is] Josh Addo-Carr's grandad... I thought that was a nice touch to have him here."

While the deep connection among the NSW playing squad was instrumental in helping claim the State of Origin Series in Game Two, so too was the discipline and resilience that was taught from boxing.

Fittler knew he had a team that was hungry and desperate for success, but what helped them have a seamless transition into Origin football was the character-building exercises of boxing that boosted the team morale.

"Well as long as I'm ever in an Origin camp along with 'Freddy', we'll always box early in the camp because it makes guys hungry," Knowles said.

"That's what we definitely built camp two on, [it] was about being hungrier and we needed to do that again today.

"Early in the camps, we do a lot of stuff about morale and character and things and there's no better way.

"You saw the morale when we finished, everyone hugging each other, but [it was] also the mindset of a fighter."

With the likes of James Tedesco, Josh Addo-Carr and Latrell Mitchell in the line-up, there was no doubt that the NSW side of 2018 had plenty of attacking prowess.

But while having a side that had little issues in finding the try-line was an important part of their successful Origin campaign, establishing a formidable defensive mindset was just as crucial.

The valiant defensive effort in Origin II, with James Roberts sin-binned in the dying stages, was certainly no fluke – it was a quality taught early in the camp which helped galvanised NSW in that period. 

"There's a little bit too in the [terms of] keeping cool under pressure, getting hit but keeping cool, controlling your breathing, obviously in a lot of our footy stuff, it's all about having a clear mind," Knowles said.

"It's the same as boxing...we want them focused, clear, [to have] controlled breathing and picking their time - the same way you pick your time on the footy field. You need to in boxing, so it's more our respect for the fight game and [building] the character of why we do it."

Although the series is wrapped up and the shield is guaranteed to return to New South Wales, the team will not be short of motivation when they head into enemy territory next Wednesday night.

One thing that is also for certain is that all the players are proud - but not entirely satisfied.

And that hunger and desire is something the likes of Mundine, Tuivasa, Carr, Akkawy and Pedro can teach Fittler's men in their hopes of claiming the first NSW clean sweep since 2000.

"There's also nothing better than walking out of a session and feeling like you've learned something, so having some of the world's best fighters here, the boys walk out feeling good because they've learned something," Knowles said.

"The first time they were a little bit nervous and now they look like a seasoned [professional], like Nathan Cleary for example, we first did this in the NSW City camp and I don't think he'd ever put a set of gloves on.

"Now he's sparred with 'Choc' Mundine and he kept his cool - and that's how he plays his game, he cops his hits and he keeps his cool."

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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