NOW it’s more of a nine-day boot camp filled with sponsor dinners, school visits, PR exercises and endless training at secret locations. But in years gone by players actually enjoyed the week leading up to an Origin game almost as much as the fiery clash itself.
What sort of camp have Anthony Watmough and Jason King taken part in over the past week?
When Manly great Cliff Lyons was first drafted into Origin by coach Ron Willey in 1987, the standard preparation focused around some quiet time at the local pub.
“We mainly just went out to a pub and had a few quiet beers and that was it,” he said on Monday.
That mentality stayed true for former Manly, NSW and Australian centre Terry Hill’s days with the Blues, and he fondly remembers Phil Gould taking the team out for rounds of “pub golf” where players kept score of their drinking tallies in the opening days of camp before knuckling down for training later in the week.
“I think things have changed a lot since those days,” Hill said of the more politically correct build-up.
But one thing is for sure, Origin coaches have always tried to find different ways to propel their teams to victory: whether it was whitewater rafting, surfing, sailing, anything which brought the players closer together was considered progress.
Some, like Gould’s pub golf days, worked well.
Others weren’t quite as successful - such as 1999 when Wayne Pearce got his troops to gallop through the forest on horses, and ended up losing star forwards Robbie Kearns and Brad Clyde.
“I think the last time they did something like that, which would’ve changed it for good, was all of that horseriding stuff,” laughs Manly assistant coach and Blues great Geoff Toovey.
In the end, it was all in the name of bonding.
And, as Hill points out, when you’re dealing with elite athletes bonding is the key. “You’ve got to remember that all of the guys selected can all play football, that’s the easy part,” he noted. “The hard part is getting them to gel.”