Anasta spills on the off-field dramas at Roosters, Tigers
BRAITH Anasta lets out a long sigh and buries his head in his hands.
So begins a series of short stories on the Roosters at their loosest. The Wests Tigers at their most toothless - crippled by a stunningly amateur operation in the modern game. And the bitter Bunnies, brushed once by Anasta in his prime. Then returning the favour years later.
These are the tales of one of Sydney rugby league's most polarising, recognisable and enduring figures of the past decade.
Back to Braith, the 288-gamer across three clubs, with the weight of a past world on his shoulders.
We're talking about the 2010 Roosters side. A team laden with on field talent, off field they could be ... wayward.
He and coach Brian Smith had their work cut out trying to control the playing list.
"Brian Smith and I, every day ... I'm in there (Roosters headquarters) every day. I was Dr Phil by the end," Anasta begins on Fox Sports' podcast, The Stack Report.
"I'd be driving around to houses and hearing there's a few blokes on the piss here and there's a few blokes on the piss there and I'd be out the front scoping like a detective.
"We're not talking like the day after a game. We're talking the Thursday ahead of a Saturday game. They're my mates too and they're not even inviting me any more!
"That situation I had to stake out a house and see who was in there without causing a scene.
"We were on an alcohol ban at the time. Behind the scenes you witness some amazing things. I think even an assistant coach was there."
That story isn't in reference to Todd Carney, but Anasta is forthcoming when explaining how the tattoo-clad playmaker came unstuck again and again.
"You've got to pull yourself back and think of the reality and think: 'What am I doing? Where am I? Why are they here?'
"There's a million questions you have to ask yourself. You've got to learn that lesson and most people do, Toddy (Carney) is one of those guys that it just didn't click with him in the end."
As dysfunctional as that might sound it has nothing on Anasta's experience at the Tigers.
Fed up with the coaching style of Brian Smith he quit the Roosters to join Kangaroos boss and Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens.
"Then before I get there, there are two major plays that turn my frigging life upside down," Anasta recalls.
"Smithy gets sacked at the Roosters, Robbo (Trent Robinson) comes in, who I love. Sheensy gets sacked from the Tigers and Mick Potter gets brought in.
"I've made my decision based on one thing, one thing on both sides of the fence and it all just gets thrown into chaos.
"I rocked up there the first day and I'm thinking ... it's like the first day of school but even worse. I've gone 'oh my god'.
"First day I walk in and we go into a room and Chris Heighington stands up with Beau Ryan and they start crying and go: 'Sorry guys we're leaving the club.'
"Now I'm just sitting there like the new dickhead that's just signed on. I've walked in and their best mates are leaving. I'm sitting there going 'this is not a good start'.
"I didn't step foot in the joint (before signing), which is another major regret for me, didn't even step into the facilities to see what they were like.
"I'm thinking 'they've got the same facilities', I'm thinking 'it's a first-grade rugby league team, I'm not even questioning that'.
"It's not a shocking gym, but it's not like ... I just remember thinking 'wow, this is so far behind the times'. Little things like availability to Gatorade and water.
"You'd only have a certain amount of Gatorade. You're talking about a team that trains three to four hours a day that has limits to their recovery.
"A few times they didn't pay the bill for strapping tape, which is just a necessity. Guys scavenging for tape to try and tape themselves up before a training session.
"This was in 2013. It was bizarre. It was a dark place I don't know how anyone could be expected to play their best and that showed for a long period of time.
"Pottsy (coach Mick Potter) did as much as he could. Even he had his hands tied, because as I said, the joint was a debacle."
An interesting subplot was the fact that Anasta nearly joined South Sydney instead of the Tigers, only for the deal to be scuttled at the last moment.
Anasta believes that may have happened because he declined to join the Bunnies in 2005, instead picking the Roosters. Administrators in rugby league have long memories.
"This was a heartbreaking decision because my uncle (George Piggins) was the president and he was ringing me, Nick Politis is ringing me, Ricky Stuart is ringing me.
"My uncle is saying 'please, come to Souths'. And I'm like 'George, you know I'll come but I need other players, I can't go there by myself'.
"I'm not going to change South Sydney. I'm not going to win them a premiership. I need a couple of forwards or another half or an outside back.'
"At the time they were going for Orford and they missed him. Just one other player and I was there.
"Do I go to my club, Souths, my blood, George (Piggins), but risk my whole career? They were going nowhere.
"Everyone goes: 'He was going to the Roosters for the money.' I can tell you now, if I went to Souths I would have been set up for my whole life. I actually took a lot less to go to the Roosters. It wasn't about money, it was about being the best player I could be.
"I could hardly speak to him (Piggins). He was upset, I was upset. It was really tough you know. I just said 'mate, I'm not coming'. It was shocking. That did test our relationship. Mum is his sister, it was tough, really, really tough."
The tables turned at the end of 2012 as he was looking for a new home after leaving the Roosters.
"I nearly went back there (Souths). No one knows that, I nearly went back a few years later," Anasta says.
"My manager had said 'Souths are coming, they could be interested'. I said 'I'm leaning towards Souths'. Then at the last, last, very last second something happened. I would say someone has thought 'stuff him, he didn't come to us (when it was tough)'.
"When I didn't go to Souths, and you can look back at who was in charge. There were some people there that were very, very, very bitter.
"They've probably got a right to be upset. At the time their jobs were on the line, there was a lot of pressure. I didn't go there, didn't help because they didn't have anyone to sign.
"But then all those years later when there was a possibility of me going there and it was all hush, hush, it was all going to be under the radar, at the last, last, last ... my manager rings me and goes 'you're not gonna believe this, they (Souths) are not there'."
I mention that Shane Richardson was the Bunnies chief executive at the time. Anasta doesn't answer, he just laughs.