When it comes to punishing games, there are few sports more relentless than rugby league. Every game is a grueling 80 minutes of full-tilt running and tackling, and, with 26 weeks in every season players put their bodies on the line for a little over half the year. 

But players are more conscious than ever that their bodies really are their livelihood. Increasingly, recovery is a critical part of a footballer’s game.

Trainer at the St. George Dragons, Andrew Gray, explained that his players are often in pretty rough shape when they come off the field. “They’re often pretty banged up, pretty exhausted especially if we play a really continuous game, with a lot of heavily collisions,” he said.

Often in that first 48 hours after a game players are sore, and Andrew said it makes it difficult to get moving. “We really put a focus on assessing where they're at and encouraging movement.”

Although there are high-tech methods for aiding recovery, Andrew believes that the basics are still effective. “They'll have some supplements which will include some fluids, some protein, some amino acids and they'll simply be medically checked,” he said. “But the best way to recover is to eat, rehydrate, sleep and get your body moving.”

The first thing that Ronnie Palmer, trainer at the Penrith Panthers, does after a game is ensure his players are properly hydrated. “It’s the one thing that they need constantly, especially on a hot day when the conditions are trying,” he said.

Players under hot conditions can lose up to four kilos, according to Ronnie, and this equates to four kilos of fluid. “It takes a fair while to get that all back on board, so we start them off by getting them to have things like Powerade,” he said.

The second on Ronnie’s list of crucial actions is making sure his players get enough rest. “It’s incredibly important in keeping players in peak condition,” he said. Melbourne Storm hooker, Ryan Hinchcliffe, agreed. “Recovery plays a huge part in our sport now. We play a very high contact sport. You've got to make sure you're getting as much sleep as you possibly can.”

For players like Billy Slater, whose career with the Storm began in 2003, looking after his body is more important than ever. “Especially since its my twelfth season in the NRL, recovery is hugely important to making sure that your bodys right for the following game,” he explained. “Ice-baths were around when I first started, but it wasnt compulsory. I think that its compulsory in every team Ive been involved in now.”

Ryan agrees that without a proper recovery process, he’ll feel it the next day. “You definitely notice if you don't do it,” he admitted. “You tend to be a little bit stiffer, you don't move as well and when you're like that you tend to cop a few more little niggles and niggling injuries.”