Revealed: Folkes’ nasty surprise for players before golf trip
STEVE Folkes' toughness and no-fear attitude as a player defined his 269 games and four premierships as a Canterbury player.
And it was those same traits that defined his coaching career at the Bulldogs which reaped the 2004 NRL title.
The players he coached at the kennel and at the Jillaroos will remember the man who could keep up with any of them in any training drill, long after his own retirement from the game.
Folkes died on Tuesday of a suspected heart attack.
Matty Johns recalls one story that perhaps sums up Folkes' ruthless obsession with fitness and hard work.
It was the day he sprung a surprise road ride on his unsuspecting players, who had prepared for a relaxing weekend of golf and beers.
"Some of the training sessions go down in legend. The Bulldogs players will tell stories," Johns said.
"Often the Bulldogs go up to the Hunter Valley at Cessnock there and they have a few drinks, play some golf and just relax, a bit of bonding.
"They turn up one Friday and they're going to Cypress Lakes for the weekend, he said just turn up, bring your golf bags, bring your training gear and we might do a bit of training.
"So they arrive at Belmore Oval and Folkesy says go into the sheds, grab your bikes, strap some bananas and some water to your back, we're riding to Cessnock.
"It's 220 ks.
"The whole squad rode up the highway to Newcastle. Some of the boys could hardly ride a bike, it must have taken them two days."
And while the brutal surprise training session may sound tough on the players, Johns explained it was moments like those that helped establish the club's famous culture, and contributed to their 2004 premiership.
"That was part of that Bulldogs culture, when you played them you knew you were going to get bashed up and you knew you had to play for the full 80 minutes or they were going to beat you," Johns said.
"Steve Folkes had the ability to push his own traits onto his players and onto his teams.
"His toughness, his perseverance ... Folkesy's teams were always fighting to the siren, they were incredibly hard to beat."
Johns remembers playing against the Folkes-trained Bulldogs during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
He admits they were some of the toughest games of his rugby league career.
"You might remember the run they had in his first coaching year in 1998. We played them the second week of the finals at Allianz Stadium, we led them by 16 points just before half-time, and they beat us in extra time, they just wore us down," Johns recalled of his time with Newcastle.
"The week after that they played Parramatta, Parra led them 18-2 with little time left and they beat Parramatta in extra time.
"They were fit, tough and relentless. They were Steve Folkes, that's who he was."