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The Roosters enter the final countdown for the Sydney Football Stadium

Today, before he takes to the field at Allianz Stadium for one of the last times before it is demolished, Roosters player Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will play a video over and over again.

Roosters player Jared Waerea-Hargreaves with artist Harley Oliver and his portrait.

Roosters player Jared Waerea-Hargreaves with artist Harley Oliver and his portrait.

It is a clip of his toddler daughter, Zahli-Rae, in a red, white and blue jersey clapping her hands cheering him on saying “you can do it dada.” Each week for the 25 weeks of the rugby league season, he says this final piece of preparation helps him get into what he calls “the zone". Facing the Cronulla Sharks in today’s first round of finals will be no different.

“I see my little baby and that inspires me and motivates me and gives me physical and mental strength,” the 29-year-old Rotorua-born prop says.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves with the paintings of players which will be auctioned post-season.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves with the paintings of players which will be auctioned post-season.

But it is “the zone” after the game, when the players return injured and exhausted to the sheds, that fellow New Zealander Harley Oliver was interested in capturing in a series of intimate portraits of Roosters players. They gather in a circle, listen to the coach, sing the team song and try to digest whatever happened to them in the 80 minutes of combat they have just endured. It is an “inner sanctum” in the team room, where a lot of ritual takes place, says Waerea-Hargreaves, who is now a father of two girls.

“It’s an intimate moment, at the end of the game they go into an odd zone,” says Oliver, the artist and former television producer. A 15-year fan of the team, Oliver was granted special post-match access for the paintings.

“Even when they’ve won it is an almost post-traumatic state – like you are with a bunch of soldiers after battle who are reliving parts of the battle,” Oliver says.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves says he recognises the “far off look” Harley Oliver has captured in his portrait.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves says he recognises the “far off look” Harley Oliver has captured in his portrait.

“I thought this was an interesting moment to try to paint, there is no point in trying to paint glory that’s not as interesting as this zone of sheer exhaustion and injury,” said the painter who many of the players consider part of the “Roosters brotherhood” thanks to his long-time support of the team. He pitched the idea at the beginning of the season, before they had won the minor premiership, and the players were happy to grant him access due to the fact Oliver and his wife, WSFM Breakfast host Amanda Keller, have been long-time team supporters. So far he has also painted Cooper Cronk, Latrell Mitchell, Daniel Tupou, Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend, Mitch Aubusson and Zane Tetevano. The paintings will be auctioned post-season.

The nearly two-metres tall Waerea-Hargreaves, now in his 10th season of playing professionally, says he knows that “far off look” Oliver has captured in the portrait of him.

“It’s a sort of glazed look we all have at the end of a game … We are always injured, there are always a lot of chilly bins [portable coolers] and bags and bags of ice for our injuries as we try to recover and unwind in the change room,” Waerea-Hargreaves said.

“There’s a lot of adrenaline as we sit and reflect in that circle … there’s a sense of relief if we’ve won, a sense of disappointment if we’ve lost. It’s a special moment when you stop living in the fast lane and just stand still and look into the eyes of your fellow footy family members,” he said.

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