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Cameron Munster, the Queensland Maroons and Melbourne Storm star who saved himself

To most individuals, and doubtless a laconic soul like Munster himself, it was nothing greater than a joke. To anybody who has wrestled with the tough realities of dependancy, it was like passing his teammate a reside hand grenade.

Spend sufficient time in a rehab, or a 12-step assembly, and also you’ll hear a well-known chorus: “In case you cling across the barbershop lengthy sufficient, eventually, you’re going to get a haircut.”

However what if the barbershop is true there the place you’re employed, after each match, after each victory, ready for you to sit? In rugby league, the candy style of victory is often the identical because the candy style of the sponsor’s beer.

As a substitute of getting the haircut, Munster fended the XXXX away prefer it was a Blues defender. He did one thing comparable when Maroons nice and coach Allan Langer approached him to say he was lacking his “little ingesting buddy”.

Munster’s finished with haircuts. Doesn’t want them nor need them, as Storm coach Craig Bellamy has seen.

“He tells me, and he doesn’t often bullshit to me, that he’s not lacking alcohol,” Bellamy says. “If somebody had mentioned three years in the past that he wouldn’t be lacking it, I wouldn’t have believed them. Once we’ve had just a few beers after Storm video games, or the subsequent day after we get collectively, it’s the traditional Cameron however and not using a beer in his hand, only a smooth drink. He’s not bullshitting me. He’s very OK with not having a drink.”

Munster’s very public battle with an alcohol and playing dependancy, which led to therapy in a Brisbane rehab final 12 months following the so-called “white powder scandal”, has change into a punchline for former gamers and commentators.

Cameron Munster and Brandon Smith in a Queensland hotel room with white powder on the table

Cameron Munster and Brandon Smith in a Queensland resort room with white powder on the desk

His success, climaxing together with his efficiency in Origin I, matches snugly into the acquainted shoebox of rugby league redemption, however the fact is he’s an unlikely poster boy for restoration. Or, to place it crudely, finding out one’s shit.

“I’m actual happy with him,” Bellamy continues. “Early into the 12 months, I may need been sceptical about him preserving it up. However now I’d be shocked if he had a relapse.”

For so long as anybody can keep in mind, Munster lived his life like he performed his soccer: spontaneous and stuffed with dangers. He had two personas and even had labels for them. When issues had been going properly, he referred to himself as “Munny”. After they weren’t, it was “Munsie”.

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After inspiring the Maroons to victory in the Origin decider in 2020, Munny and a few of his teammates zeroed in on Byron Bay for celebrations.

Two days after the match, hooker Harry Grant was being interviewed on Matty Johns’ present Morning Glory on SEN Radio when he handed the telephone to Munster.

Johns’ son Cooper, who performs on the Storm, was within the studio and requested Munster to clarify what goes by his thoughts when he’s enjoying.

“You understand when a monkey is clapping these little … what do you name them?” Munster mentioned.

Cymbals?

“Yeah cymbals. That’s how I’m pondering. That’s me to a ‘T’. There’s not a lot to me, as you’ll know, Coops. Run arduous, sort out arduous, kick, get to the set place, you already know what I do.”

These on the Storm see it every single day.

Because the gamers stroll on the sector for a coaching session, the chatter will begin about which teammate shall be proven up by Munster when he runs on the line, steps, jinks and snaps the ankles of defenders earlier than slicing by.

Later, within the video room, they’ll watch the session once more with teaching workers stating the defensive errors that allowed Munster to make sure gamers appear to be fools. You believe you studied the Blues have finished one thing comparable this week, dissecting his break from midway early within the second half that swung momentum the Maroons’ means in recreation one.

To counsel Munster merely performs what’s in entrance of him, that it’s all right down to the percussionist monkey in his head, is simplistic.

Billy Slater, his Queensland coach and former Storm teammate, laughs on the notion of Munster not placing a lot thought into how he performs.

“Don’t be fooled,” Slater says chuckling away. “Don’t be fooled about a few issues. The notion is he solely performs what he sees. There are conditions on the sector you take a look at and go, ‘Wow, that was simply a chance and he took it’. Don’t get me fallacious: he’s that type of participant. If one thing occurs, he can react with one of the best of them. However he is aware of the sport rather well, he cares about his footy. He’s not only a unfastened man who goes out and performs. You may’t be a constant footballer doing that. You want some construction and preparation to your efficiency. So watch out in regards to the notion: he has take care of his soccer.”

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga places it this fashion: “You may’t play on intuition if you happen to don’t have a excessive footy IQ so you may make the correct choices. He’s all the time had that capability however he was a bit wishy-washy. Now, he’s within the recreation on a regular basis.”

In his twenty years on the Storm, Bellamy has enforced a tough rule about trick performs: “In case you haven’t finished it at coaching, don’t attempt it in a recreation”.

Cameron Munster takes a selfie with a fan after the Maroons won game one.

Cameron Munster takes a selfie with a fan after the Maroons received recreation one.Credit score:Getty

“There are a few gamers who’ve been exceptions to that,” he says. “Billy was one, Munster the opposite. His energy is his intuition, however he performs as much as that, too. There’s lots of footy sense in that head. A variety of footy common sense too. Greater than individuals assume.”

Earlier than the 2017 season, Bellamy dispatched Munster and Slater to Sydney’s northern seashores for some one-on-one coaching with Matty Johns.

Munster had introduced his arrival within the NRL the 12 months earlier than filling in at fullback for Slater, who had been sidelined for eight months with a second shoulder reconstruction. Fullback was all he knew and he was deeply involved about shifting into the No.6 jumper.

“Effectively, he didn’t have a lot selection,” Slater says, once more chuckling. “There was just one spot on the again there.”

On the first session, Slater and Munster took it in turns with easy passing drills, throwing balls from left to proper to Johns, who was at centre.

Munster’s first ball landed at Johns’ toes. The second hit him within the head.

“It was a giant change,” Slater remembers. “It’s a very completely different place. There are some similarities in assault, but it surely was confronting for him.”

Munster had an excessive amount of capability for it to not work, happening to win premierships, Origins for Queensland and World Cups for Australia.

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“He’s a kind of guys who you could possibly play wherever,” Slater says. “You could possibly put No.13 on his again and play him by the center. The wonderful thing about Cameron is he’s a bodily participant as properly. That’s the priority when shifting gamers round, particularly from fullback, the place you possibly can keep out of the continuous contact. He’s beginning to discover the sector extra now. When he first went there [to five-eighth], it was very a lot the inventory normal, ‘keep in your facet, let the fullback roam’. Now he’s exploring the opposite facet. Every time he’s across the soccer, one thing occurs.”

With eyes large open and cymbals clashing in his head, Munster will stroll onto Optus Stadium on Perth on Sunday night as one of the best participant on the planet. You may’t add sufficient Xs to the best way he’s enjoying.

In rehab, they typically speak about “the presents of restoration”; the constructive good points in your life that solely include sobriety and regularly engaged on your self.

For Munster, that simply isn’t an Origin collection win and even enjoying properly. The actual presents, in response to Bellamy, are his associate Bianca and younger son Jackson.

“He didn’t have to do that for his footy,” he says. “He was nonetheless going to be enjoying first grade and there would’ve been individuals wanting him to play of their workforce someplace. However he’s obtained different causes to remain off the grog – as a result of he’s obtained extra to lose than footy.”

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