A Sibling Rivalry

Alex and Robbie Hunt
Two Tasmanian brothers demonstrate that a sibling rivalry goes deeper than fighting over the PlayStation, wrestling each other or arguing over who ate the last muffin… it’s much more.
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Introductions

Writing this article on brothers Alex and Robbie Hunt, two of Tasmania’s top multisport athletes, was no easy task.  

You’ve no doubt heard all the headlines before; “On The Hunt”, “Big Game Hunters”, “Hunt Brothers To Tussle It Out”… the list goes on.

When two athletes already have wide spread coverage in the local media, captivating readers becomes difficult.

At the core of the Tassie Athlete is an idea to share insight into a particular aspect or theme, so when it came to the boys I wanted to delve a little deeper. I wanted to tap into their attitudes and their motivation, into their ‘why’ – so finding a focus was difficult.

I lost sleep for weeks... knowing these guys so well, yet trying to come up with a theme that did their achievements justice.

Is ‘role-modelling’ a good theme? Do I delve into how they inspire and push each other?

Do we revisit ‘On The Hunt’, which is tried and tested, or maybe just consider them as individual athletes?

Perched at one of Hobart’s fine coffee establishments, I eagerly wait for Alex and Robbie to join me.

Although we are all mates from years back, my lack of direction had me constantly checking my list of questions to ask, desperately hoping that these will mould the answers into what I'm searching for.

“G’day mate, how’s it going?” says Robbie, as we all sit down and order a brew.

Instantly, my nerves disappear.

There’s no expectation or anticipation at all with the Hunt lads. They’re straight shooters with a relatively care free approach to life and sport.

As we get the formalities out of the way, I’m quickly reminded that these brothers are no ordinary interviewees; it’s as clear as Tassie’s water that these two have a sibling rivalry like no other.

“Sibling Rivalry” - that's it...

A True Tassie Tale

I’ve known Robbie for many years - his lighter, aerobic frame always miles ahead of my lanky, sluggish stride at state cross county meets and local fun runs.

His infectious smile, positive attitude and good bloke demeanour capturing the attention of athletes and non-athletes alike.

Working his way up through the Tasmanian multisport scene as a junior is something Robbie attributes Alex for.

"Alex kind of set out the path for me. In a way I learnt from his achievements and his mistakes - he really set the benchmarks for me and my progression."

"I know everything he does. We’ve lived together, worked together, and that’s pretty unique for two guys who are also training partners in a way."

"Alex had to do it tough where as I've kind of had it laid out for me.”

Despite this, Robbie - 2018 Freycinet Challenge second place getter and the other half of the 2016 Red Bull Defiance Wanaka Elite Pairs winner - still has belief in the work he does.

“Work ethic is a big thing for me, you can have all the talent but the commitment to work is important.”

“I think that I'm slowly starting to implement that kind of thinking into my training and competitions now too - my paddling, for example, is something I’ve focused hard on recently and improved over the summer”.

Alex, the slightly senior of the pair, is the first to admit he’s the more mischievous brother.

The five times Freycinet Challenge winner and multiple podium getter at the Coast to Coast (I'm informed, the most well known multisport event in the world) is armed with a passion for training hard and fighting for his values.

He's also the first however to compliment his junior however just as talented and passionate brother.

The first time Alex and I met was over a beer, a setting that speaks volume to his laid back nature. However, his passion for multisport competition in general began many years earlier than what many think.

“Running was definitely the precursor for multisport. I ran in local athletics and throughout my time in high school.”

The option to try his hand at multisport presented itself through his Outdoor Education Teacher.

“My outdoor teacher, who was super good value, he said there’s this race called the 'Winter Challenge'. He said that we should enter a school team, so we did and I did the run."

"On the way home after the Challenge, me and my mate Paul said we should enter as a pair and we ended up doing The Freycinet Challenge later that year”.

“We had a paddler lined up and they bailed, so I ended up doing the paddle and run in the same day. That’s it – that’s kind of how it all begun.”

“I thought ‘stuff it, I’m going to try solo and it’s just eventuated from there.”

When the stop watch is away...

Outside of their sporting endeavours both men are engineers at a local firm, a position they praise for allowing adequate time to work and train respectively.

Despite their strong work ethic, their love of Tassie extends beyond a place to call home. They have a deep passion for Kunayni, often seen out training on the network of trails that traverse the mountain when open.

“It's no secret we love training in Tassie and the place as a whole.”

“We can go out on the mountain, push each other and get the most out of each other, whilst enjoying it and having a laugh along the way."

Running, cycling, paddling and engineering are what most people on the outside think the Hunt Brothers life revolves around; and for the most part they’re right.

However what most don’t know is that there’s actually a lot more under the surface than cleaning up at big events...

Robbie is the Vice-Commodore of his local sailing club and volunteers his time once a week at laundry service for the homeless.

"It's a great story actually, when I used to walk I'd always see someone living in a bus stop in Sandy Bay. I started talking to him and thought that I could really help out someone like this in a simple way."

"With all the hustle and bustle in this world, I think giving up some time for others is quite important."

(A gesture that has not gone unnoticed here at The Tassie Athlete HQ and adds to his already good-bloke demeanour.)

Alex can often be found with a hammer in hand, renovating his house - a love\hate relationship he reminds me.

"We're a bit different in our spare time Robbie and I."

"With our training load, there's usually not a heap of down time - but I'm often out collecting fire wood or doing jobs around the house."

You wouldn't be blamed for seeing a flying mullet out in the Tassie wilderness on an epic running, riding or paddling mission.

"I love getting away for a weekend in the bush - it's still training in a way but nice just to enjoy some down time."

A rivalry like no other

While this paints an accurate picture of their life outside of sport, it isn’t to discount their attitude towards it.

Alex is the first to admit that his younger brother has the talent and diligence to go far within the world of multisport.

"Robbie is far more talented than me and he is naturally pre-disposed to this sport. If he applies that work ethic he uses outside of multisport to training and racing, he will be a hard man to beat.”

“He’s is very diligent and organised – that’s very different to me – and gives him a bit of an edge.”

“He’s also very level headed, which is a good reminder to pull my head in.”  

In the same ilk, Robbie says "I look up to Alex."

"He’s been the dominant man in multisport in Tasmania for some time now and although he is my brother, it’s inspiring.”

“Alex is my rival, another competitor, another bloke out there to contend with, but at the end of the day, he’s my brother - my best mate”.

For any athlete, rivalry is a healthy yet competitive component of sport and can last the test of time. Rivals can push you, inspire you, knock you down, make you hungry for more, drain every last bit of energy from your body and at the end, you’re still waiting to toe the line and compete against them.

Why? They’re your rival... However, does this change if they are your sibling?

The Hunt brothers answer is no.

“We are rivals, there’s that sibling rivalry and always will be - but deep down we like seeing each other do well,” Alex says.

“To be honest, having Robbie there by my side is all I’ve ever known and I’m used to it."

"I actually see it as such a privilege, because it’s a great thing that we can share our enjoyment of sport and competing together.”

“People probably think that we are super competitive, and we are, but it’s different.”

“I’m definitely never going to let Robbie beat me, but I’m stoked when I see him race well and I’ll always cop it if it’s fair and square.”

I think this is something that translates to all sibling rivalries and sporting rivalries in general, particularly in Tasmania, where sporting communities are close knit and rivalries are often against your friend, neighbour, or colleague.

This is no different for these siblings -who have nailed how a rivalry should be executed.

“I definitely attribute our success on both a local, national and international level to having my brother as my rival,” Alex says.

“We don’t actually train together as much as people probably think, but it goes deeper than our physical performance.”

“We get to bounce ideas off each other, race tactics, gear, general talk about absolute shit.”

“The fact that we can be 100% honest with each other is a massive, massive part of it. Particularly when you know each other quite well, you can be realistic when things aren’t going your way."

“It’s rare for someone to be able to tell you point blank to pull your head in or that you ‘need to look at things a different way’."

"Ultimately, you’re more likely to listen to it because it’s coming from someone you know and respect.”

“That openness is more prevalent in team sports, but not so much in individual sports – not many people necessarily have a relationship like that."

When asked what the term bother meant to the boys, they paused... gathered their thoughts and Robbie answered with confidence.  

“Our strong rivalry is a testament to our relationship - he’s my best mate.” Robbie says.

"In a way, Alex is an extension of myself, I'm just as much defined by him as I am by myself - and that's a really great thing."

"If nothing else, having a brother means having someone absolutely unwavering in your corner. Through the ups and the downs - we get to be that sounding board for each other and inspire each other to get up and about."

"Not many people have that to the same extent that we do - so I do consider it an absolute privilege."

The Hunt Brothers add to this term by setting goals, helping each other along their path and enjoying the journey. Rivalry can be an important aspect of any athlete’s persona.

A sibling summary

Knowing the boys as well as I do, it's warming to hear them be able to open up on not only their relationship, but also their rivalry. While not everyone has a sibling or that direct rival, keeping true to the Tassie Athlete I wanted to distill some short take aways from my discussion with Alex and Robbie:

1. Have someone in your corner:

The lads can't speak highly enough of how having someone in your corner allows you to remain grounded. This is particularly important when things don't go to plan, you have someone to pick you up - but as the guys elaborate, it's also someone to share in your victories both big and small.

2. Find a likeminded person to bounce ideas off:

Sport can be both time, and physically consuming - particularly when it comes to multisport. Alex and Robbie talk about their shared passions for the riding, running and paddling disciplines and having that likeminded person to talk seriously, or absolute shit with, can be a good way to calm nerves or flesh out new ideas.

3. Be honest with yourself and those around you

It's a pretty unique opportunity to have someone involved in your sporting journey that can be honest and open regarding your approach. While being mindful of everyone's personalities, we can learn from the Hunt brothers that finding someone who's feedback you value can help keep you on track and level headed.

Looking forward

While competitive when together, the two brothers have their sights set firmly on individual goals.

Robbie was accepted to compete in the highly coveted Red Bull Defiance series in New Zealand, a major event on the global multisport calendar.

Yet Robbie’s excitement and anticipation isn’t overshadowed by Alex’s inclusion in the event also, despite the event being cancelled due to the current COVID-19 .

As highlighted by Alex, racing and training together ignites a healthy yet ferocious desire to push each other, extracting every single drop of grit, determination and talent out of each other.

So for now, the men will be focussing on training in Tassie and enjoying a healthy work/life balance.

Whilst racing may be at a standstill currently, the Brothers are using this time to their advantage. Re-setting goals, enjoying their training and making the most of spending some quality time at home.. which would usually be spent travelling and racing on the international circuit.

Final barber shop talk  

As our chat drew to a close, both men thought they had finally escaped the discussion of their long, flowing hair - their mullets.

“The mullets were a novel thing to begin with,” Alex says.

“Suddenly they started to gain some attention so we continued to roll with it.”

Although deep down I think they knew the mullets would be within my line of questioning, they still acted surprised when asked.

However I think it’s a topic the brothers secretly enjoyed answering...

It is after all, a conservation starter - a unique style that sets them apart.

“We have no plans of getting rid of them, they set us apart and we like it.”

Hopefully we see the flowing mullets once again ascending Kunanyi in this years edition of the Point to Pinnacle - and if not, around the bar with a beer in hand will be more than satisfactory.

Good luck with your upcoming training, potential races and mullet growing lads.

I want to thank Alex and Robbie for their time.

For the Tassie Athlete  

- Andrew

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