Luke Keary has taken his game to another level. Picture: Getty Images
Luke Keary has taken his game to another level. Picture: Getty Images

Mind games: How star Rooster calmed his farm

Mind control techniques used by world champion surfer Mick Fanning are among the secrets behind Luke Keary's emergence as one of the NRL's most dominant players.

The 28-year-old Sydney Roosters playmaker has been working with mind coach Nam Baldwin, who was brought into the club by supremo Nick Politis and is closely collaborating with coach Trent Robinson, to regulate his "arousal levels" on the field in order to maintain composure.

Baldwin has worked closely with Fanning and Stephanie Gilmore, tennis legend Pat Rafter, and was brought into the NSW State of Origin camp by coach Brad Fittler last year.

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Luke Keary has taken his game to another level. Picture: Getty Images
Luke Keary has taken his game to another level. Picture: Getty Images

 

 

Keary began working one-on-one with Baldwin after noticing how relaxed his former halves partner, retired great Cooper Cronk, was before and during big games.

"I got that off Cooper, and Mick Fanning uses it a lot," Keary said.

"You've got to get yourself at a level when you want to perform and compete.

"I remember I used to get to a seven or an eight in arousal levels, and I found Cooper would be very calm and relaxed, a three or four.

"With that comes better decision-making. You can get up at certain times when you need it, get your numbers up higher if you want to get aggressive, but I learned about where I need to be mentally when I need to perform.

"We do a lot of mind stuff with Robbo. I've done a lot of work with Nam Baldwin over the last few years, personally and as a team.

"He's been real good, and Robbo's in touch with all of that stuff. I think it will be the norm in sport in five to 10 years."

 

 

Part of Keary's daily routine is to ask himself one key question.

"How do you perform to the best at what you're doing?" he said.

"You can't just say 'I'm going to do this to perform better'. You have to go looking for the answers, they are not going to hit you in the face. You find different people who are going to help you.

"The ultimate question for most people in their professional life or sport is: how do I get myself to perform to the best level I can each time I go and do my job?

"I found that helps me. Some people don't like it.

"You've got to ask yourself that question all the time. There's a physical side to it, a mental side to it, a spiritual side to it, a psychological side to it. You've got to tick all those boxes."

Keary has taken the Roosters to back-to-back premierships after winning the title with South Sydney in 2014.

 

Keary has helped his club to back-to-back premierships. Picture: AAP
Keary has helped his club to back-to-back premierships. Picture: AAP

 

His departure from the Bunnies was marred; the pre-season altercation with owner Russell Crowe rolled into a season-ending injury in round 21, and few would have backed Keary to become the figure he now is.

Upon reflection, Keary understands how seminal that year was for his transformation.

"I don't like talking about it, but that year at Souths didn't end well. I had to deal with all the off-field stuff as well," he said.

"It makes you grow as a person and a player. You get a lot of perspective on life and footy.

"Going through those harder times, not so great times, you get a lot more out of that than you do out of being successful all the time.

"I reckon that, the year before I came to the Roosters, the perspective I got, even with things like study - at the end of that year I knuckled down and started studying [Bachelor of Business degree]."

 

Luke Keary was unveiled as a Rooster in 2016 with Michael Gordon. Picture: NRL Photos
Luke Keary was unveiled as a Rooster in 2016 with Michael Gordon. Picture: NRL Photos


Making the switch to the Bondi club in 2017 rejuvenated Keary as the Roosters made the preliminary final. However, the arrival of Cronk in 2018 was a game-changer.

"Cooper was pretty influential," Keary said.

"He came along at a perfect time in my career and life. I was mature enough to understand what he was doing and how he was doing it.

"To see it in person, I took a lot out of the way he conducts himself. If I was going to pick one person who had the biggest influence on the way I want to become and progress, it would be him.

"The main thing I got out of him is his consistency - in every aspect of his life; the way he behaves, the type of person he is, the type of professional he is and the player he is. He's consistent.

"You just know what you're going to get every single day."

 

The legendary Cooper Cronk had a massive influence on Keary. Picture: NRL Photos
The legendary Cooper Cronk had a massive influence on Keary. Picture: NRL Photos

 

While all the focus was on Cronk before the 2018 grand final against his former club Melbourne Storm, it was Keary who won the Clive Churchill Medal in the 21-6 victory.

Last year, again the focus was on Cronk when the Roosters beat the Canberra Raiders.

When the game was there to be won, it was Keary who sprinted down the blindside following a Boyd Cordner hit-up, unleashing Latrell Mitchell on the left edge.

Winger Daniel Tupou took the pass from Mitchell and found James Tedesco inside for the premiership-winning try.

"I've had three seasons at the Roosters and I think with each season I've got better as a player," Keary said.

"I won't discuss it but there's so much more in my game that I know I can get better at, and I'm working with Robbo and Kingy (assistant coach Matt King) on those things."

With Cronk's retirement after the decider, it was incumbent on Keary to assume greater leadership responsibility, which he's adopted seamlessly.

 

Keary has learned much from master coach Trent Robinson. Picture: Brett Costello
Keary has learned much from master coach Trent Robinson. Picture: Brett Costello


How?

"One word; natural," Keary said.

"As a half, you've got to have leadership qualities. As you play more, you become more consistent, then your opinions and thoughts become more valued, and you gain greater influence over your teammates and the club.

"You can't have that without the performance, and you can't do your role without the leadership, so they come hand-in-hand.

"It's easy too with the people we've got at our club. If you look at the leaders we have at our club, we're not short of people: Jake [Friend], Boyd [Cordner], Jared [Waerea-Hargreaves]. Then you've got that next batch in Teddy [Tedesco] and Sio [Siua Taukeiaho] and Isaac Liu, and then you'll see the young guys coming through in the next four or five years, Victor [Radley] and Nat Butcher, Joey Manu.

"It's a natural succession. We don't think about it or talk about it, it just happens."

 

With his concussion issues behind him, Keary is eyeing an Origin debut. Picture: Getty Images
With his concussion issues behind him, Keary is eyeing an Origin debut. Picture: Getty Images

 

After being ruled out of last year's Origin series due to a fifth serious concussion in 18 months, Keary is hotly tipped to make his Blues debut at the end of the season.

The concussion issue that even prompted some to suggest Keary should retire is no longer a concern for him.

"I spoke to a lot of people in that field and I'm real happy with the way we dealt with it," Keary said.

"I had to have that time off last year, which I didn't want, but for the long-term benefits it's good. Since that break I haven't had any.

"I don't think about it at all. It happens in our game and you've got to take care of yourself, but I'm not going to sit there and worry about it happening again."

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Mind games: How star Rooster calmed his farm