Age 29 (30 December 1982)
IN 2010 Gareth Delve, who has won 11 caps for Wales, swapped Gloucester for Australia and the Melbourne Rebels. Here the back-rower talks birthdays, boarding school and bodybuilding…
I had visions of being the next Jonah Lomu. I started out on the wing, but my lack of pace caught up with me. I had a dabble at second-row and absolutely hated it – you’re in close proximity to the props! – so I settled in the back row.
I’m a quarter Chinese. My mum’s father came over from Hong Kong, but he split with my nan and passed away before I was born. I’m interested in parts of the culture, but it’s not had a huge influence on me.
My birthday has always been pretty frustrating. It’s close to Christmas so my parents would get me just one big present! As I got older no one wanted to go out for drinks because New Year’s Eve was the next night. We’d play a lot over Christmas in the UK, but we get a two-week break in Australia.
Going to boarding school broadened my horizons. I was a young lad from Rhymney with a great opportunity to go to Colston’s in Bristol. I didn’t know if I’d fit in, but they were a fantastic bunch of lads. I’d played for Wales U16 a year young and that’s when I thought of rugby as a possible career path.
My dad was Mr Wales in 1982. He was a competitive bodybuilder and went to three Mr Universes, meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger. There are great photos of my dad in his posing pants and gravy tan! He has been a big influence in terms of my training and work ethic.
This a fantastic job. Playing with your mates and the camaraderie is one of the best things about being a pro player – the other is travelling the world alongside those guys.
The worst thing about rugby is injuries. I’ve had a few and it can knock you back in terms of your confidence. It also puts a lot of stress on your loved ones.
I’ve always enjoyed captaincy. I like the opportunity to influence where the team is going. I also like to help other players – I see it as more of a mentor role than out-and-out leadership. It’s an extra honour.
Football was my first love. I played a lot. My older brother would drag me out to play basketball too and make me stand there as he dunked!
I love car-crash TV. My guilty pleasure is Wag Nation – a show with the wives and girlfriends of a few AFL and NRL players. It’s brilliant. I keep telling my girlfriend, Helen, that I’ve put her in for it!
I’ve missed two fantastic weddings by coming to Australia. Nicky Robinson married Kenny Dalglish’s daughter, Lynsey, and I’m a huge Liverpool fan. Then there was the royal wedding of Tins (Mike Tindall) and Zara.
Bath and Gloucester are different to Melbourne. They are very much rugby towns and the mood of the place ebbs and flows with the fortunes of the team. Melbourne is a great sporting city but rugby union is only just starting to get more presence through the Rebels.
I stepped in to break up a dispute. Helen and I were going to look at an apartment during our first week in Melbourne and a man seemed to be pushing a woman into a car. It looked sinister and if I hadn’t done something I’d have regretted it. So I went over and he stopped being aggressive to her and turned his attention to me. He took a swing and I pushed him away, then he put his hands in his pockets and I thought he had a weapon, so the next time I gave him a dig. Luckily, when the police came, they saw that I was in the right. We tried to keep the story under wraps but (Rebels coach) Rod Macqueen let it slip at a dinner.
Rugby is different in the southern hemisphere. The Premiership is such a long season that’s it’s difficult to play at the pace you can in Super Rugby, where ball-in-play time is similar to international rugby.
I gave my grandfather my match jersey before he died. He’d been ill with cancer for a few years and took a turn for the worse in 2010. I’d just come back into the Wales squad after a two-year gap and started against Ireland. To have the opportunity to give him my starting jersey with his name on it before he passed away was an incredible honour.
I’d never turn down the chance to play for my country. It has been difficult at times with Wales – I’ve made a breakthrough, then got injured. My biggest frustration was missing out on the World Cup, but I went to the Wales-France semi-final and was amazingly proud to see how well the lads did and all the fans. That’s when I made the decision that I’d be happy to take any opportunity to be part of the team.
DID YOU KNOW?
Melbourne Rebels No 8 Gareth Delve is the first Welshman to play Super Rugby and the first non-Australian to captain one of the Aussie franchises.
This article appeared in the August 2012 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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