No excuses are coming from Shannon Boyd on why he was overlooked for the World Cup squad just 12 months after being a part of the Four Nations tour and earning his first four Tests for Australia.
“My form didn’t warrant it,” the Canberra Raiders front-rower told NRL.com in a frank self-assessment.
“I just didn’t have the ‘it’ I did before, so that’s something I’ve got to address and work on. There were no hard feelings there. It was a decision they had to make at the time.”
No prizes for guessing how losing his Kangaroos spot hurt the Cowra Magpies junior. But big plaudits for the 25-year-old wanting to do something about it rather than sulk a little longer.
Boyd has been one of the most consistent forwards for the Raiders when it comes to availability. He has played over 20 games for each of the past four seasons. One distinct change in 2017 was that he scored no tries, compared to previous years.
“That’s wasn’t good. I’d like to see a few more tries come off some of the back of those runs,” Boyd said.
“But I didn’t have as many carries or make as many metres that I should have. It just wasn’t my year really and probably due to myself.
“I think I relaxed a little too much off the back of the Four Nations. It’s probably been a good thing too though because it’s made me work harder this pre-season to try and get back to where I was before.”
Then again, where he is now is being one of the most intimidating forwards with ball in hand. Boyd attracts three defenders 65 per cent of the time, according to NRL.com Stats for 2017.
That puts him fourth in the Telstra Premiership behind George Burgess, David Klemmer and Jason Taumalolo.
“You look at those blokes and they’re all big like me. So I should be attracting those defenders. If not, then I’d be doing something wrong,” Boyd said.
“But it’s a stat I am proud of but I intend to improve on this year. I want more metres and some more ‘meat pies’ too.”
He already is spreading the fear factor, especially when he links with fellow Raider front rower Junior Paulo. The big Samoan attracts three defenders 52 per cent of the time but the pair are in the top-12 when it comes to making metres every run: 9.6 metres for Paulo; 9.4 for Boyd.
The Paulo-Boyd combo does the damage like Matt Scott and James Tamou did at the North Queensland Cowboys, or Jesse Bromwich and Jordan McLean at Melbourne Storm. The thing is the last two relationships have busted up – Tamou is now at the Penrith Panthers and McLean is on his way to the Cowboys.
From the outside the two Raiders look like the archetypal odd couple. The farmer boy from Goulburn and the passionate Polynesian raised in Auckland. They do share one thing in common – they are both around 123kg.
The pair are close however. They didn’t have to force it. It came quite naturally.
“If you don’t have a relationship as front row partners it’s certainly not going to work too well for you,” Boyd said. “Junior is a champion and we get along really well. We support and respect each other.
“He’s one of the better forwards you can have alongside you in a game with his big, aggressive runs. He gets a good off-load away, so all round he’s an intimidating player.
“The two of us really need to step up this year and take on that role even more – get more physical, chew up more metres.
“We want to lead a pack no-one wants to play against. If we get that aggression going, our backs will play off that and everything falls into place.
“We always try and lead from the front. I think last year I was a little too heavy, too big. I wasn’t getting to those marks I needed to get to. I’m trying to work on being much better this year.”
But Boyd had to start from the ground floor again – the dreaded ‘Fat Club’ where players return from their break heavier than required.
“It’s more frustrating than anything. It’s three extra sessions a week but you have to be here at 5 o’clock in the morning, that kind of thing,” Boyd said.
“It is all designed to make you want to get out of it – and that’s a good thing. If the fat club was easy, you wouldn’t mind doing it. But it’s not so you push yourself to get out. You eat better and do lots of things better.
“Pre-season is hard because you put on muscle from doing weights. But while I am still a good size weight, my fitness is better. I feel better, more energy.”
Coach Ricky Stuart had more players in the fat club than anticipated due to the fact some World Cup teams did not adhere to diets as strictly as others, and because the Raiders trainers raised the bar.
“We had a lot in it this year because we set some pretty high benchmarks in terms of our body fat,” Stuart told NRL.com.
“So at one stage we had some reasonably fit players in that club, but they got out pretty quickly.
“No-one likes it because it’s uncomfortable. But it’s your choice whether you want to be in it or not.”
The other discomfort for Raiders players is reviewing the lost opportunities of 2017, which ended up in a top-four side finishing 10th.
“Our lapses in our games. We need to get rid of that. We’d switch off for a few minutes and they’ve scored tries against us,” Boyd said.
“We had games when we were ahead 12 or 16 points and they’d end up beating us. We can’t have that. We’ve worked on a lot to do with that and maturity is one of those things. We’re still quite a young side.
“But now that everyone is up over the 40-plus games mark, and heading to 90 and 100 games, with couple already there, then we’re getting more experience and that’s going to help us.
“You look at teams like Melbourne Storm and the Cowboys and other teams that go well and they’ve got a lot of older players with a lot of experience, a lot of leaders,” he said.
“We’re starting to get that here. And that will go a long way to making us a lot better, a lot more ruthless.”