Richard Barnett is one of the legends of New Zealand Rugby League. He was one of a handful of Kiwi players who made it over into the Winfield Cup and this was before the Warriors were in the competition so the entry for foreigners into the competition was very tough.
Rich burst onto the scene in 1994 with a Cronulla Sharks team led by a new coach John Lang, new CEO Shane Richardson and had a mix of experienced players such as Andrew Ettingshausen, Mitch Healey, Danny Lee and Les Davidson which was complemented by the rookies led by Richard, David Peachey, Mat Rogers, Paul Green, Aaron Raper and Nathan Long.
This was the start of one of the most successful periods in Cronulla Sharks history, where making the semi finals became a certainty after years of struggle.
After an outstanding start on the wing, Rich wanted to test himself and signed with the Sydney Roosters to challenge himself in a new position in the centres. This period of time would see Rich become Kiwi test captain and continue to develop himself as a real leader amongst his peers.
For all the highs of his career, there were many setbacks. He contracted Cryonic Fatigue while over in the UK, while he also suffered an horrific facial injury both which would dent his confidence and put his future in the game at great risk. He showed true character to bounce back in the face these battles and come out the other side stronger than ever with true purpose and intention for the future.
This is the story of Richard Barnett, Listen to the entire episode below or continue for my key takeaways and stories from our powerful chat.
THE SHARKIES BACK 3
“I think we changed the style of the kick down. We tried to impose something a little bit different, an interchange of passing and vary it from the back 3. We didn’t have the most expansive game in the competition but we felt we could do something a little bit special, during that period we created something that was way ahead of its time, using our skills at the back and that’s the style the three of us had”
LEARNING FROM THE BEST
"I had Cryonic Fatigue for a long time something like 14 years and some of my sporting years and it really stopped a lot of things, I couldn’t think properly and I couldn’t physically do things I would like to have done. That put a big halt in my life, my thinking process was all gone, fatigue was a major issue so it wasn’t a normal transition into entrepreneurship. I started learning more through contacts with other individuals and I love learning from people who have succeeded in life, it part and parcel in learning yourself. Entrepreneurship is like a game, a game where you have to be discipline and have your goals and stick to it. It’s very similar, when you don’t know something you have to try and build your capability and understand things. The best way to learn is to try from people who have done it before. I’ve made mistakes no question, the fast way is to learn from the best and those who have done it before”
BATTLE WITH CRYONIC FATIGUE
“Cryonic Fatigue absolutely changes the way you are because you’re so tired and it just draws the essence of who you are out. You can’t get out of bed, you physically can’t work a day, I tried and I couldn’t because I was physically gone. You got memory loss and so many factors that some people have. When I had it in London, halfway through my second year, I had 6 months off than came back to Hull FC. My confidence was shot and I wanted to know if it was a mild sense of depression, I couldn’t speak a word. I was very confident before, I was 29 or 30 and I was very confident and well prepared in that space. But I was so scared of doing things, I couldn’t do things in a game. I got no idea how I got away with it, it was just a massive challenge. It was the hardest thing because there is not recipe for getting out, there’s no pills, you just got to bide your time. There was times where I didn’t want to speak to people I would be in my bed because it was dark, light wasn’t very good for it. There was times I would go to training and fall asleep. I was one of the fittest in the team, I would go out and finish last without any one telling me what’s wrong with me and I did it for a year and a half. There’s a few things that have happened in my life and there’s that one that’s probably the worst I’ve ever had, I have so much empathy for people that are going through it in all ages”
POSITIVITY IS KEY
“There were times when I thought where is the end, where is the light. What I’ve learnt in my life and I’ve always been this way, is you got to show faith. I’m a real positive person and I hate negativity it’s one of my pet hates, I hate being around negative people and negative stories, when I had Cryonic Fatigue I hated it even more. I want to hear positive attitudes and good stories all the time so I learnt to remain positive because there will always be an end game and it will always be good, so I worked on mind over matter”
CREATING A VISION
“When I was 12 or 13, I used to run the roads early in the morning. I had a vision very early on, when It was the Winfield Cup that’s what I wanted to do. We used to buy videos and watch a whole month of football, buy the Rugby League weekly and post all the posters on the wall and be my shrine of where I wanted to go. When you’ve lived all your life to get to a point, I used to get up at 5 in the morning and run 10 km, three days a week & cross train, you name it I did it, we didn’t have Scouts to pick you up, but when I got a call in 93 from Arthur Beetson to come over, I didn’t care what I was getting, just get me over there”
CATCHING THE BALL ABOVE THE HEAD
“It was such an influence from the game of Basketball, I wanted to dunk that ball when I was young so I trained. Sand bags around my legs and run around, I used to do phyometrics and try to get that spring factor because everyone loves someone who can dunk right. There’s no better feeling. Getting up high was something I absolutely loved and the aerial bomb, I thought if I could meet the ball at a point and that’s timing and knowing what type of kick it is. It’s exceptional what they can do now, but we kicked that off didn’t we, it was 94 when we got aerial”
MOVING TO THE ROOSTERS
“They pitched it to my wife when I was overseas playing in the test series against England. What I understood was Phil Gould and Nick Politis took my wife out and I knew it was going to happen but I couldn’t be there, I wanted her to see what the Roosters were about and get a feel for it. It was clearly a good night and basically she said yes we should do it and it’s going to be exciting. I knew that I was going move because it was going to improve me as a player. I loved the fact it was a fresh start. The style of football they wanted they chose to have me in the centres and that's part of the reason why I signed to get away from the wing, I loved defending and at times I would move Brad Fittler over so his fresh later on, it’s all those sort of things you do as a player to enhance your team, you’ve got to do a little bit extra so Freddy can get out there and do his magic, but I loved every moment of it”
THE WORLD CUP
“The most frightening thing is playing your first game after a horrific injury and that happened to be the World Cup. We had two weeks prior to the World Cup in England and for those two weeks I didn’t get any sleep, it was still quite raw and didn’t have full feeling in my face and fear that it would crack and I would get that intense pain I had. I did no contact work, when I played my first game, as a leader you felt compelled to do something or say something or look like you were positive but underlying all that I was freaking out, I was so scared, but I put a face on, I guess I’m used to it now and just went out and played, got the player of the match, scored two tries against Lebanon, but I got through it, I didn’t sleep during that period but slowly got through it, I got through the whole tournament and got Full Back of the year ahead of Darren Lockyer and NZ player of the year. Again it’s that story when things are so bad you got to continue on, it was , it was a big year for me, when it was the worst year for me”
So many great stories in this chat with Rich. Being a big Sharks fan, I used to love watching him play on a Saturday night down at Shark Park. Richard’s story show that setbacks and extreme events can bring you down, but the way you bounce back will be how you are truly defined. His own battle and triumphs are a great example and inspiration for us all to continue to pursue our own hope and dreams.
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