When any sports player in their mid-to-late thirties is handed a new deal by their club, the mind immediately questions it.
The reason? Most players, especially those who play car-crash sports such as rugby league, retire well before they turn 37.
That’s the age Hull FC star Mark Minichiello will turn before the 2019 campaign, with the back rower having put pen to paper this week on a one-year extension.
But to question Minichiello’s new deal would be wrong when you look at the context. He continues to be productive and has only missed two games this season due to injury.
“I probably never thought I would be here five years on after I first signed for the club,” Minichiello told the Mail. “I knew I could go on longer than most but I have changed a lot of things as well since coming over here and my body feels a lot better for that.”
Just because most players are injury prone or passengers at this stage in their careers doesn’t mean it applies to everyone.
There are certain people who are the outliers and for Minichiello it’s down to the work he puts in off the field. There is no coincidence that a player who takes care of himself like the Australian does is benefiting by playing on for longer than most.
One of the clear weaknesses which appears as players get older is their recovery slows up. But clever and committed players can cut down their recovery time by committing to diets which help the body refuel, something Minichiello is an advocate of.
“I used to think like anyone that your body is unstoppable,” Minichiello continued. “I could always eat what I wanted and felt good but it’s not until you make some changes that you realise how good you can really feel.
“A lot of people, not just players, but most of society today live with aches and pains but that doesn’t have to be the case if you really look after yourself and dig deeper into your body’s individual needs.
“My brother (former Australian international Anthony Minichiello) changed his diet when he was struggling a lot from back operations and you can always learn from other people that’s for sure.
“If you’re fuelling your body right, you’re recovering a lot faster and you are giving it the best chance to keep inflammation away. Your body is very smart and it knows the way to heal. If you feed it the right foods it will do all the hard work itself.”
There is no one diet which works for everyone but what does Minichiello eat to keep him ahead of the game?
“A lot of vegetables is a good start,” Minichiello explained. “You need organic vegetables that are not full of pesticides and sprays. Your plate should be a majority of that. You need to have good fats in your diet. People think fats are bad but they’re the opposite if you eat the right ones.
“A small amount of good quality protein is important but it’s a balance as well. I tend to eat with the seasons. Eating what’s fresh and grown in the season is really important. I could go on for hours about it.”
But it’s not just food because Minichiello is someone who also focuses on sleeping patterns. It’s something which was even highlighted by coach Lee Radford in Hull’s press release announcing the back rower’s new deal this week.
Minichiello added some context to what that exactly means and how it can benefit the body, with the 36-year-old even delving into why people should consider switching off their WI-FI at night.
“Sleep is when our body restores itself and recovers,” Minichiello added. “If we don’t get the right amount of sleep then our body can’t restore and recover like it needs to. That’s when we are building your growth hormones and testosterone.
“If we’re exposed to a lot of lighting it stops the melotone production which makes us get to sleep. If we have a lot of lights on and TVs it stops that hormone from developing in our body and we don’t sleep as well.
“We should turn our WI-FI off home at night as well because that has a massive impact on the body. Even anything plugged into the electricity plugs at home all effects sleep even if we don’t realise.
“We should try and stay very consistent with the time we go to bed and wake up. It’s also important to wake up in the cycle of sleep when it’s the lightest sleep if possible.
“Sometimes the alarm goes off and we’re in a deep sleep and get up and the body feels groggy. That’s because the body needs that extra bit of sleep that is left in that cycle to wake itself up.”
If it’s good enough for Minichiello to keep performing at a high level at the age of 36, it might just be something for people to replicate themselves.