The Rod Wishart Story
with Courtney Beaton
What was your path from the junior ranks into the top grades?
I played my entire junior footy with Gerringong. I played 1st grade for Gerringong when I was 17 and stayed playing there for 3 years (two of them being coached by Mick Cronin).
I had always been reasonably successful in juniors and late teens, making various rep sides. I had received letters from a number of different NRL clubs to trial for them but I took the advice from Mick Cronin to stay another year with Gerringong 1st grade and try my luck through country reps. This turned out to be a good move, making country 1st to play against city. After this I was offered contracts from various NRL clubs in which I took up an offer from the Illawarra Steelers and joined them in 1989, aged 20.
I guess Mick was a major influence during this time. It was great to be coached by one of the greats of the game.
Was there a moment or event that triggered your drive to want to be a professional NRL player?
I had always loved playing footy and followed the NSWRL comp with a lot of passion. Playing for a Sydney club was always an aspiration/dream. It wasn’t until I started getting letters from clubs that I thought it was a real possibility. Making country firsts was the moment that it resonated. Keep in mind that I didn’t know how far I would go. I would have been quite happy to play a handful of NRL games at that time.
Who was the most influential player or coach in your career?
I was so lucky to have played with an array of talented players and be coached by some of the greats.
As a player, I can’t go past Paul McGregor. I played my just about my whole NRL career with him in the centres and myself on the wing. We built up a great combination and I felt so comfortable playing alongside him. On top of that, we built a life time friendship.
Phil Gould would have to be the most influential coach I have had. Not only his knowledge of the game, but his ability to make you feel so confident in your own ability, were his real strengths.
You played 22 State of Origin games for NSW and 17 Tests for Australia. In 2005 you were named one of the greatest NSW players of all time. Who do you consider the best player in game at the moment?
I couldn’t choose between Jonathan Thurston and Greg Inglis.
What was the biggest setback you have had to face and how did you deal with it?
I’ve had numerous injuries over my career – chronic hamstring problems, a shoulder reconstruction, a torn hand tendon.
Over my 11 years of 1st grade NRL I only played 170 odd games, which is comparably low.
I feel I’ve always been able to keep positive during times out due to injury.
In 1991, my eldest brother passed away. This was a difficult time but my ability to stay positive and with the help of my close family and friends; it was easier to deal with. He was always so encouraging with my footy and I know he would have been proud.
Who assisted you towards cracking into the NRL? Did you continue to look to them as you stepped up into the Origin and Australian ranks?
I would have to say my parents. Being one of six kids (all of who played sport), we were always given the opportunity to pursue our sports. It wasn’t just the travel but it was their time to go to physios, carnivals, trials, etc. I owe so much to them for where I went in my football career. I’m pretty sure that as I progressed into State of Origin and Australian ranks, they felt that their efforts had payed off. They went to most of my games including Queensland and England.
When it comes to training and work ethic, what was the best advice you were given?
Always keep challenging yourself!!!!
Have you ever lined up against a player who genuinely intimidated you – either due to their sheer size, skill or just their reputation/fame?
To be honest, I feel I reached a high level because I always felt confident in myself, especially when it came to my opposing player. Everything was a challenge. Of course, there were players a lot bigger than me but I never had an issue with them.
How has the game changed since you left?
Bigger, stronger, faster. The amount of time that the current player trains, their skill levels are greater too. There are obvious rule changes that have influenced the game in a negative way (in my opinion) i.e. stripping, shoulder charge.
If you were able to choose a generation in which to play would you choose then or now? And why?
Then! The nineties was such a great era to have played. Late 80s and early 90s we all had jobs and trained in the afternoon/night. The clubs had a good “feel” to them. Super League changed a lot of things during the mid-90s and clubs became more professional (be that good or bad) but with professionalism came less club spirit. I know the dollars are better now but I wouldn’t change a thing. Plus NSW used to win during the 90s!!!!
Since retirement you have stepped away from the game and now have your own business. Is there a part of you that wants to throw on the boots or pick up a coaching board?
All the time!!! I coach my youngest son, Tyran, for Gerringong under 14s. When I warm the kids up there isn’t a day that I don’t want to run out with them. I watch any footy game live, Gerringong or Dragons and want to be out there. I have always wanted my own business which keeps me busy. I have never had the desire to coach at a high level.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your future self if you had your time again?
I don’t think I would change too much. Keep making the most of opportunities. Try to create new opportunities.