Join the stand-off on a metaphorical tour via Cardiff, Chew Valley and Hawaii

CALLUM SHEEDY has had a barnstorming season, navigating Bristol Bears through their journey towards the Gallagher Premiership play-offs, netting 122 league points before the Covid-enforced break and making the fly-half jersey his own. The Cardiff native tells us about his life…

“AT 16 or 17 years old I was a pathetic goalkicker. I was terrible. I didn’t even kick for our school (Millfield) – Tom Whiteley, the Saracens scrum-half, used to kick for us. I just loved running the ball.

“But then moving into a professional environment, you won’t survive as a ten if you can’t kick. So I spent so many hours with Mark Tainton, who was our kicking coach at the time.

“Kicking is about what feels natural. I didn’t want to model my kick on Jonny Wilkinson or Johnny Sexton or Dan Carter. I played a lot of football growing up, so I kicked the ball like a football. I needed a few tweaks with my approach to the ball, my tempo into the ball. And it’s about not overthinking everything because I’m quite a deep thinker.

“I wasn’t like Lionel Messi! I was a central midfielder in football and I enjoyed the defensive side. I liked getting stuck in but I was pretty basic. I’d make a ten-metre pass, max, just play the easy ball all the time. But I liked working hard and I liked going box to box.

Callum Sheedy

Can he kick it: Sheedy warms up (Getty Images)

“I’m a big Leeds United fan. I love it. I’ve had a lot of stick from friends over the years as they’ve been in the Championship and then League One – I think the worse they became, the more I loved them. What (coach) Marcelo Bielsa has done is amazing. The closer we got to the Premier League, the more my nerves jangled (Leeds are back in the top flight for the first time since 2004).

“On deep thinking, you have your goalkicking focus and your rugby focus. A big thing I’ve learnt is just because you’re having an off-day off the tee doesn’t mean you then become poor in open play and vice versa.

“It’s hard because I could have the best day of my life, be Man of the Match and get ten out of ten kicks, get two tries, but still come off the pitch and think about two missed tackles. I’m very much a perfectionist and that’s not always a good thing.

“Pat Lam has helped massively. He makes it all very clear. His post-match and pre-match analysis is so clear and precise that it’s music to my ears. You can ask him anything to clear your mind and he’ll give you the most honest answer. That’s what we want.

“The new players coming in have been brilliant. If you came into our camp now, I don’t think you’d be able to tell who is new and who has been there for years. Take Mitch Eadie: I played with him four or five years ago and he was our best player every week, unbelievable. Having someone like him – a true Bristolian – has already offered massive value.

“I’m sure you’ll see Semi Radradra. Think of the X-factor him and Charles Piutau can pull off. And Kyle Sinckler has come in and straightaway you can tell that he’s working at a world-class level.

Callum Sheedy

Breaking free: Against Bath (Getty Images)

“It’s the little talks on the pitch – he’s a tighthead prop, but it’s the detail and knowledge that he has on the game. It reminds me of John Afoa. They could literally fit in at fly-half and run the game.

“I was tapping John up in the gym about the Hawaiian pro team he co-owns. In the off-season I wouldn’t mind going out there for a few weeks! I said he’s like the Hawaiian Steve Lansdown now.

“You can train all you want but getting minutes on the pitch is invaluable. Going to play for Jersey, Cinderford, Clifton or Dings was priceless for me. Dan Carter and Ardie Savea playing amateur rugby in New Zealand recently is extreme but it’s brilliant to go do it. I think there has to be a link between Premiership clubs and Championship or National One clubs.

“I’ll actually be coaching Chew Valley when their season restarts. There are some really good players out there. Towards the end of lockdown I was doing my exercise at the club. My girlfriend lives in Chew Valley and her brother plays for the club.

“I ended up speaking to the director of rugby there. There was an opportunity to help out with the backs. I felt like it might be the right time to go into coaching. I’ve done my Level Two badges and I love rugby. I’m a bit of a nause. I’m really excited.

“I want to be the best player in the world. If you don’t want that you’re in the wrong spot. But there’s constant competition in Bristol. Of course I want to be an international, to go to World Cups, but my biggest focus is being the Bristol ten for the long-term future.

“It’s sitting on the fence but I’m proud of all three of my ties. I was born in Cardiff. My dad’s a patriotic Irishman. I’ve lived in England for eight years. If I play well for Bristol, what’s meant to be will be…”

This article originally appeared in the September 2020 edition of Rugby World magazine.

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