Not everyone who starts playing rugby league at the age of four will go on to have a CV that simply lists different footy clubs as a career path. For Braith Anasta, this is his reality. In his own words, he has never had a 'real' job apart from helping his dad with his work. Of course, being a rugby player is no cushy job.
'I've been lucky enough to make rugby league my career since I left school. It's something I don't take for granted – I cherish it every day.'
Apart from his stellar career at club level, Braith has also played in nine State of Origin games and was called up to the Australian team in 2001. It's an impressive career by any standards and still going strong.
What is it like constantly performing in front of large crowds of people?
The buzz I feel when I'm on the field in front of a full-capacity crowd is the reason why I play. My office is the football field, so to turn up to a game in front of so many people who appreciate what I do feels great. I love being outdoors, and I'm either training or playing outside all week, so it's the perfect job for me.
Winning the Premiership with the Bulldogs in 2004 was a definite highlight. It's what every player dreams of. Playing for Australia in my first year of rugby league was also something that I'll never forget.
I definitely wanted to be involved in sport. I had a pretty sporty family and my uncle, George Piggins, played for South Sydney Rabbitohs. My family were mad rugby league supporters, so from a young age I always wanted to play rugby league. I also wanted to be a fireman.
I was always interested in being involved in the playing side of rugby league. Most people these days who get jobs in the sporting industry have experience playing the game at some level. I don't think I would have had anything to do with the game if I wasn't playing.
Growing up, my sporting hero was Greg Norman. I thought he was a great ambassador for Australia and for the game of golf. He was not only successful on the golf course, but he was also a great businessman. I always looked up to him – he was my idol.
That footy players have a lot of time to themselves. The reality is that this type of career is a lot more time consuming than people think. I'm pretty much on call 24/7 and training sessions change all the time. It really is a full-time job.
It's got its positives as well as negatives. I've wanted to be a professional athlete my whole life and now that I've achieved this it's good to finally get all the attention and accolades. It's a good feeling to have people respect what I do.
On the other hand, some of the negatives are that there are some who are very passionate about the game and their team, and players can cop a lot of criticism from the media and fans. But that's what comes with the territory and, for me, the positives outweigh the negatives.
If the team plays on a Sunday there will be recovery time on the Monday. Then there's a light session on Tuesday with a half-day fitness session on Wednesday, as well as weights sessions early in the week. Late in the week we'll brush up on our skills and make sure we're prepared with a set game plan for the weekend game.
Training is intense not only during the season, but also in the off-season. We get five or six weeks off straight after our last game, but after that, the off-season starts with some really hard work. Even in the off-season we basically train every day, with maybe one day off on a Sunday. This time is all about fitness, getting in shape and preparing our bodies for the season ahead.
It depends on the player. If you're a high profile player in the team, your schedule is a lot more demanding with more media commitments and work for sponsors. There may be events with fans, or visits to sick children who like to see their sporting heroes. These responsibilities come with being a professional athlete, but it's something that I enjoy doing.
It can become tough and I have to make sure that I take time to see my friends and family as much as possible because they are a big part of why I am where I am today.
If a player is happy on, as well as off, the field then they're going to perform better and play good football.
Sponsorship in rugby league is pretty hard to come by, but there are definitely opportunities in media and commentary with jobs such as public speaking. It's hard to organise this sort of work while I'm playing, but it's an avenue of employment that I'd like to pursue in the future.
I'm signed to the Roosters for another four years, so I'll be there until I'm at least 30, and I think I'll have a couple more years as a player after that. The game is getting harder and faster and it's pretty tough on the body, it will depend on how I feel.
It will be difficult. Going from a team environment to having to find my own job and employment will be a challenge. My attitude is that if I work hard enough, achieve my goals in the next four years and get to the position I want to be in life, then I'll be pretty comfortable once I retire from the game.
I think becoming a professional athlete is just something that happens – it's not something that you can plan for. As soon as people, like agents, start taking an interest in you, you'll know that you have something special and have the potential for success.
On the other hand, there are many people who dedicate a lot of time and effort to their sport, but in the end find that they're not quite good enough to take it all the way. This setback can really put people behind in life. It can be a really fine line between success and failure in sport.
If an agent contacts you, you need to take time to think it over because it's a very important decision that will affect your entire career. If you've got talent, lots of agents will approach you and will want to sign you to a contract straight away, but you've got to be careful that you make the right decision. It's a good idea to speak to other players and athletes who are already signed on to the agent to see what they think of them.
There are many different opportunities behind the scenes, and professional clubs like the Roosters offer a great environment to work in. For example, our team has physiotherapists, masseurs and chiropractors all working with us. There are also a lot of young trainers who have studied hard and forged successful careers by watching and learning from more experienced trainers. If you're not going to be a player, being part of the support staff is a great opportunity to be involved in the sport.
It's too early to say if we're going to win, but I think we're definitely going to have a great year. There's no reason why we can't perform well. We've had a couple of ordinary seasons, but we played well at the end of last year and I am extremely confident that we can have a good crack at it this time around.