If Alex Corvo had his way, he would not do a single interview this season.

The Warriors head trainer isn't used to the spotlight, and doesn't particularly enjoy it, but it's likely his name will be up in lights the rest of the year if the Auckland NRL team continue their current trajectory.

The Warriors' five-win start to 2018 was a near miraculous turnaround given they finished last season with nine straight losses, and Corvo should take much of the credit.

If fans were polled on the club's most important off-season recruit, a fair percentage might plump for Corvo, even ahead of Blake Green, Tohu Harris or Adam Blair.


His impact has been that significant, overseeing a conditioning programme that has imbued the team with levels of physical and mental resilience not seen in years. That was particularly evident with the comeback in Canberra, and last week's resistance against the Cowboys, despite being denied possession and territory for long periods.

Corvo was also cited last week by Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston as a prominent reason for the Warriors revival. So how does he feel about the focus on him?

"I'm not totally comfortable with it, to be honest," Corvo told the Herald on Sunday. "I would prefer to do my work behind the scenes. At other clubs, that's been the case and that's what I'm used to. But I understand the expectation, and the public perception about the team's performances over the years, I suppose, has created an interest in my role."

When hired, the former Storm, Broncos and Kangaroos trainer was hyped as a game changer, expected to make an immediate difference.

"There is an expectation there and I don't hide from that fact," said Corvo. "That is part of the challenge of the job. Having said that, to produce an elite athlete in any sport doesn't happen in three or four months. We will make some good improvements this year but even when I went to Melbourne in 2003, we weren't playing grand finals for three or four years. That's a good example of the amount of work it takes to produce an elite player."

Alex Corvo has been a key part of the Warriors revival. Photo / photosport.nz
Alex Corvo has been a key part of the Warriors revival. Photo / photosport.nz

Tales abound of his legendary sessions, with Smith, renowned as one of league's fittest and most durable players, admitting he has never trained as hard as he did under Corvo.

Members of the Warriors squad seem to shudder when recalling his pre-season sessions but the 50-year-old just laughs when asked how he became such a "hard bastard".

"I think I've got it in me a little bit but when I first started at Melbourne, Craig [Bellamy] was very strong with what he wanted me to do and how he wanted me to approach it," said Corvo. "He made it clear that was the approach needed. So that is how I approach most of my work. We're all here for the same reason — we want to be successful, and hard work is a good way of being successful."


Corvo is a specialist at pushing players beyond their limits but admits it is sometimes difficult to see them suffer.

"It can be hard. There is part of me that says 'geez, maybe they've had enough' but also part of me that says 'well, maybe they need to do more, as well'. We need to be comfortable handling oppressive training. As I say to the players, I'm not here to be popular but hopefully I'm respected and appreciated for maybe making the players be reasonably successful."

Along with Warriors coach Stephen Kearney, Corvo is a disciple of the mantra that supreme fitness correlates with mental toughness.

"That's something Steve has always pushed. If you have confidence in your physical fitness, that's going to help you get through the game and execute that skill at a crucial time, or turning up defensively where you need to be."

Corvo practices what he preaches. He trains in the gym most days and possesses a handshake that could break a rock.

"I feel better mentally when I train, so I'm sure the players feel the same. That's part of it, but I'd do it anyway, whether or not I was working in elite sport. I plan on training for the rest of my life, it's part of my life."