Super League XVIII: The big kick-off's here
WITH his new boots ready to be christened and his clothes laid out, Mark O'Meley has just one thing left to do before Super League XVIII gets underway – it's time to get angry.
"I'm normally angry by now," says O'Meley with his smile almost betraying the seriousness behind his point.
For 15 years, since coming through the junior grades in New South Wales, the ex-Aussie Test and State of Origin prop has adhered to a strict routine.
It starts on a Monday with little routines that culminate the day before the game, with the forward becoming 'someone not to mess around' as he says in his words.
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"I'd bore you senseless and we'd be here all day if I went through it all," explains O'Meley as he discusses his mood and routine ahead of the new campaign's start.
"My preparation lasts all week and I honestly don't know how my family put up with it.
"Normally by the day before the game I am pretty angry, but at the minute I'm a bit numb. I'll be angry by game day though. My family know to stay away from me.
"When I was younger I was taught to get in a routine and a pattern that helps you play well and then stick to it. I learnt all this when I was 15, from preparing your meals, to preparing mentally. It reassures you and gives you the confidence you are ready.
"So I have a system, it lasts all week and it's a long routine of things I do."
O'Meley may be more placid than he normally is at this stage before a game, but it shouldn't be confused with him not being ready.
A trip back home to Australia before Christmas brought no respite from training, but handed the colourful Aussie an opportunity to catch up with his family and refocus ahead of one last hurrah.
A stellar career that has brought an NRL Grand Final victory as well as state and country representation will come to a close this season when he hangs up his boots for good.
But it's not the impending retirement which has altered O'Meley's mood, more a sense of how important tonight's game is.
"I was excited for the trial games, but it's not excitement I'm feeling now," he adds.
"It's weird in a way, but it's like a numb feeling because I know how important this game is.
"I'm prepared. My new boots are ready, my stuff is all laid out, my diet is right, I've kept my weight under where I wanted it and everything is perfect. Now I need to get my head right.
"When we get together for the coach to Leeds, I'll be laughing with the boys and making them feel confident because I don't want them seeing me all serious because that could stress them out. If anything I annoy them."
O'Meley is always good value on and off the pitch. A character the fans love to watch and a personality that always makes any conversation enjoyable, his presence for a fourth and last season with Hull will be invaluable to coach Peter Gentle.
Not only does he bring vast experience, he adds punch and grunt to a Hull frontline that, while versatile, doesn't boast anyone else who plays in his style.
Determined to make his last year one to enjoy, there's no sign of any regrets regarding his decision to retire. If anything, he seems more comfortable than in any of his previous three seasons at Hull.
"After making the decision to retire it was important I got my head space right. I feel happy that I know it's my last year," says O'Meley.
"I'm happy knowing I am going to go out there and do the best that I can every week. Last year I had a fair few injuries, but my head is right. If I break an arm or a thumb or something during the season, I don't care because I know I am having a crack and giving everything I've got. I'm happy with my decision and my head is right."
Starting to get his game face on, O'Meley is eager to help his side make a confident start tonight at Headingley.
Travelling to the home of the double reigning champions and World Club Challenge holders, it's not points but a performance that is on his mind.
"To win at Leeds would be the ultimate in terms of a start to the season," he adds.
"We've drawn the Super League holders at their home ground in round one and it is always tough, but the two points to me aren't everything.
"It is about what we do in terms of our performance and what we do to try and get those two points. If we don't get the win but we have done everything right in defence and attack, and we've pressured them, then that's what it is about. It is about where we are going as a team.
"I've been to Leeds before and it's felt like they've ambushed us and put 40 points on us, that's not acceptable.
"We have to get our heads right and perform, but we've had good preparation to allow us to do that."