Refreshed Retallick ready to lead the way again
If there's one player a holiday would have done wonders for, it's Brodie Retallick.
He's only 22, but the towering lock has very quickly turned into a colossal figure in New Zealand rugby.
After debuting for the Chiefs in 2012 and the All Blacks that same year, it's been a mighty rise for the big man. With his super ability to win clean lineout ball, be a force in the defensive line, shift bodies at the breakdown and constantly grind out 80 minutes, Retallick carries a huge load of responsibility each time he steps on the park.
Fortunately, he found it easy enough to switch off from rugby, ahead of linking up with the Chiefs this week.
"You're always looking forward to a break at the end of a big season," he said.
"I had a bit of a holiday on the way home from the [All Blacks] tour and then just caught up with family and friends for Christmas and stuff and I've just been back in Hamilton relaxing and just making sure I've been getting the house nice and tidy before the busy times kick in again."
Those busy times start now, with another 10 months of tough slog, but Retallick said it was good to get the hard work under way.
That began with Monday's yo-yo fitness test, which he admitted was a shock to the system and left him sore. But Retallick was reasonably happy with the result, having done a bit of work through the latter part of January.
While he was aware some consideration had to be given to not peaking too early, Retallick said come their first match, against the Crusaders in Christchurch, the Chiefs really had to be firing as they begin their quest for a three-peat.
Since Retallick's been back in the group, talk of a third straight title hasn't been heard, but he knows it will be brought up soon, and he's aware the Chiefs will again be targeted as defending champs.
"It was a bit like that last year too. We got caught out a couple of times, especially against those Aussie teams, that we probably didn't prepare as well [as we should have for] and we can't just turn up and expect it to happen, we've got to put the hard work in."
Retallick is part of the Chiefs' leadership group and as well as his on-the-park exploits, he will be a key figure off the field too as he helps the "younger fellas" know what's expected of them and what level they need to be at.
"He's certainly looked upon fondly within our group, guys certainly look up to him," coach Dave Rennie said. "I think he's keen to take on responsibility.
"He was phenomenal last year for the All Blacks, and probably doesn't get the kudos that he deserves. He's set the bar high, so we'd expect the same sort of performances and influence from him again."