Journey through rugby – Ryan Jones
Posted 342 days ago
A THREE-TIME Grand Slam winner, Ryan Jones made his Wales debut against South Africa in 2004. He played in all three Tests on the 2005 Lions tour and led his country to their 2008 Six Nations triumph. Here are a few thoughts from the Osprey…
It’s better to have a memory than a dream. If you’ve got a chance to do something, then crack on and do it. It’s good to have a go.
Good leadership is about facilitating others. There can be people with far more important or prevalent things to say than you and it’s about giving them the opportunity to express that. You have to use the tools in your armoury.
My dad was a policeman. I used to get a bit of stick – that’s what kids do – but he’s just my dad, it was normal for me. There isn’t a lot he hasn’t seen so he’s not easily fooled. He’s always been there for me.
I used to throw up before matches. It was a result of getting too caught up in my own emotions, but I’m a bit more relaxed now. It changed with captaincy – it gave me something else to focus on.
It’s important to stay level-headed. In sport you can have huge highs but then you run the risk of huge lows. If you ride those emotions to the extremes of both it can dictate your life and have a detrimental effect. I’ve learned to stay as level as I can and take it in my stride.
My guilty pleasure is chocolate. And my greatest fear is the unknown – and rugby coming to an end.
The thought of retiring terrifies me. What will I do after rugby? Rugby is what defines me, or what has done for that period of time. How do I replace the daily routine and the buzz? I’m not sure what I want to do. That scares me more than anything else at the moment.
I’ve got a lot of time left in me. It’s all relative – there are guys in their mid-20s who’ve been in the game longer than me. I only started properly at 23 and you wouldn’t say someone was past it at 26 if they’d started at 18. If I stay fit, I’ll keep playing.
I used to grow my hair to cover my ears. Now I don’t care. I thought it was time to grow up. I like my haircut now – short with grey sidies.
It’s important for kids to do sport. I did everything as a kid – tennis was my first sport and then football and rugby. My mum and dad invested a lot of time ensuring my sister and I had a very active upbringing. It was very social and I was happy.
Transport a player from today to ten years ago and he’d stand out. Rugby is different from five years ago, let alone ten or 15. It’s the natural evolution of the game and it’ll continue to change. Players are rugby athletes now and are unrecognisable from ten years ago. Tactically things are quite similar, but the physical aspects have changed hugely.
I’ve now got my own little piece of history. This year was my third Grand Slam and not many people have done that. It’s pretty special and it’s nice to feel I’ve contributed to all three. The best thing is that no one can take it away, although I haven’t had a chance to really reflect on it yet.
Each Grand Slam has been incredibly special. The first two were more of a surprise whereas this one had more of a planned execution; we genuinely thought we had a chance of doing it. I’ll never forget the emotions and experiences of each one.
I’m fortunate that I can’t choose my best rugby moment. There are moments like winning my first and 50th caps. Playing for the Lions was huge, as was captaining Wales. Possibly the one moment that stands out is getting onto the podium to lift the Six Nations trophy in 2008, but then lifting the Triple Crown in Ireland prior to that was pretty special. It was the first silverware we won that year and was the first I’d lifted as captain.
The sacrifices pale into insignificance when things go well. From a personal point of view, the time away and the unsociable nature of rugby – we work weekends and have Wednesdays off – are tough. The media coverage, exposure and the weight of expectation is also much higher than it used to be.
I don’t have regrets. There are decisions I’ve made along the way that I look back on and think, ‘Would I make the same decision again?’ Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but they were made with the best intentions at the time, career-wise and lifestyle-wise.
Family is the most important thing in my life. Having children puts things in perspective. My son, Jacob, doesn’t know whether I’ve won or lost – I’m just ‘Dad’ to him. I desperately want him to be proud of me. It was great to share this year’s Grand Slam with my little boy. He loves the crowd and everyone clapping.
DID YOU KNOW?
Ryan Jones, Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones equalled the feats of 1970s greats JPR Williams, Gareth Edwards and Gerald Davies with a third Grand Slam.
This article appeared in the June 2012 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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