‘My Life in Rugby League’ for League Express with Manly and Scotland’s Michael Robertson shortly after he scored a hat-trick in the Sea Eagles’ Grand Final win over Melbourne and before the 2008 World Cup.
Have you come back down to earth after your Grand Final hat-trick?
Not really! We had a family day and a parade the other day with a massive crowd there and it only just started to sink in at that point. I never imagined I’d score a hat-trick in a Grand Final and I certainly didn’t think we’d beat a team like Melbourne by 40 points.
Did last year’s defeat to the Storm spur you on?
Yes it did. We were so disappointed with what happened in last year’s final and it’s been at the back of our minds for a long time. It’s eaten away at us and everyone has worked hard for the last 12 months to put things right.
How highly do you rate Des Hasler?
He’s a great coach who’s got us playing great footy. He’s a very intense character but he also has a laugh with the boys. He’s improved us every year and you can’t ask more from a coach than what he’s delivered here.
How long are you contracted to Manly?
Until the end of next year but I haven’t given my future too much thought yet.
Would you consider playing for a Super League club?
Definitely. I have mates over there who love it and there are four more Manly players – Steve Menzies, Mark Bryant, Steve Bell and Luke Williamson – going over for next season. I watch a lot of Super League and it’s a good competition. It’s faster than the NRL and some of the games have been great to watch.
When did you first consider the possibility of playing for Scotland in the World Cup?
I qualify through my grandfather and things started to happen in January between my manager and Richard Thewlis and that’s when I sent off my birth certificate to prove that I qualified to play for them. To be part of a World Cup is a rare opportunity and I’ve been looking forward to it since then.
Will you play for Scotland again or will you focus on playing for New South Wales and Australia?
Obviously everyone over here wants to play for Australia because it’s the pinnacle of a player’s career. There was some talk after the Grand Final that Australia could have picked me and it was nice to hear that but I was focussed on Scotland by then. I think I’ll put my hand up to play for them again although I can’t deny I’d love to play Origin. I’m looking forward to the World Cup and if I enjoy it then I’ll certainly look at doing it again.
How good are the other NRL players in the Scottish squad?
Ian Henderson is a first-class player who was one of the main reasons New Zealand Warriors did so well at the end of the season, so I’m looking forward to playing with him. His brothers are good players too from what I remember of them in Australia. Scott Logan is a massive human too and will give us a lot up front.
Can you beat France and Fiji?
That’s certainly the aim although I don’t know a lot about them. I know there are few guys like John Wilson playing for France through residency, so I know about him and the other Catalans players have looked good when I’ve seen them play on television. Fiji will be a big side and they’ve got some well-known players in their squad.
How did you first get into Rugby League?
I played soccer until I was nine then friends from school started to play Rugby League so I did too. I took to it quite quickly without blowing my own trumpet! I lived four hours from Canberra but was in the Canberra schools’ system and ended up playing for the Raiders’ junior teams.
Did you support the Raiders as a kid?
Definitely. You couldn’t help but support them because they were so good back then. Laurie Daley was my hero; he was an absolutely superb player.
You made your first-grade debut the year after he retired.
Yes that’s right – it would have been great to play in the same team as him. I played for the Under-18s in 2001 then when the season finished I moved into the reserve grade. Then I made my NRL debut a bit later on the same year.
Mal Meninga gave you your debut. What was he like to play for?
It was amazing playing for a bloke like Mal. Listening to someone of Mal’s calibre was a real opener for someone so young and it was also great playing in the same team as guys like Jason Croker, Simon Woolford and Clinton Schifcofske. Players like that taught me a lot. In fact Jason rang me the other week to suggest meeting up for a beer now he’s back from France.
Matthew Elliott was the next Raiders coach.
Matty did so much for me early in my career and we made the semi-finals three years in a row. He’s having a tough time at Penrith at the moment but he’ll come through it because he’s a good coach.
Why did you move to Manly in 2006?
I was in and out of the side at Canberra and fancied a change. Michael Monaghan phoned me to tell me Scott Donald was going to Leeds so there was an opening at Manly and it just went from there. I got a start in round two in 2006 against the Cowboys and I’ve played in every game since.
What sort of signing are Bradford getting in Steve Menzies?
They’re getting a great player and a top bloke. It’s been a real honour playing alongside Beaver for three years and it was great to see him equal Terry Lamb’s appearances record. It was also great to see him sign off in the ultimate way as well last Sunday, winning a Premiership and scoring that try late in the game.
Tell us about the Stewart brothers who have just been selected in Australia’s World Cup squad.
Brett’s an absolute freak of a player who can score a try from any situation. There are a plethora of great fullbacks in the NRL so he’s done really well to get into the squad ahead of someone like Karmichael Hunt. Glenn was great in 2007 but he’s moved to a different level this year. He’s played Country Origin but completely deserves to be in the Australian squad.
Are you looking forward to playing Leeds in the World Club Challenge next year?
We were talking about it just the other day and we’re all looking forward to it. I’ve never been to the UK, so I’m excited about going but it’s a great title to play for and we’re eager to win it. The English sides tend to do well so it’s up to us to win it back.
Do you think it’s justified when people say the NRL is no longer entertaining?
I don’t think so. Things change in the game every year and the game moves on but. The grapple tackle has attracted a lot of headlines but Cam Smith’s suspension is a warning that the authorities don’t want it in the game anymore.
Do you agree with Phil Gould that NRL players should be banned from drinking alcohol?
No, not at all. That’s a bit of an extreme view to be honest. With hundreds of players under the age of 30 in the NRL there are always going to be one or two incidents a year but little things get blown up out of all proportions over here.
Who have been the biggest influences on your career?
My old man – he’s always been my biggest supporter and when I went into the crowd to see my family after the Grand Final it was great to see how proud he was of me and what we’d done out there.