‘My Life in Rugby League’ for League Express with Castleford’s Ryan McGoldrick in 2008. McGoldrick is still at the club.
When did you first play Rugby League?
I was four or five and started playing with some mates from school at the weekend and as I got through high school, I started to think seriously about trying to make a go of it. I played for Queensland Under-17s and signed a contract with St George when I was still in school.
How long were you at the Dragons?
I was only there for a year and it was before they merged with Illawarra. I then signed for Cronulla and had two years in the lower grades I played with guys like Paul Gallen, Jye Mullane, Michael Sullivan, Stuart Webb and Brett Firman so we didn’t have a bad side.
What do you remember about your debut?
It was also Paul Franze’s debut and it was against an Andrew Johns-inspired Newcastle Knights who hammered us! Matty Johns was at the Sharks then and it was the first time they’d played against each other. I came on in the second half with little pressure on me given the score, and ended up scoring our first try. Later in the year we beat them by 60 at Shark Park.
The Sharks were 80 minutes from the Grand Final in 2002.
Yes, we had a good year and I played 10 or 12 games in a row but I signed for the Waratahs rugby union halfway through the year and I wasn’t in the side towards the end of the season. But if we’d made the final, I’d have played because Paul Mellor got injured. In the end we lost to the Warriors in the last five minutes of our semi-final.
Do you regret going to union?
Yes. There were a few guys switching codes back then and I was caught up by the flashing lights of union. My mate Mat Rogers had gone, so had Nathan Blacklock and Lote Tuqiri and they made me an offer which was pretty hard for a young bloke to turn down but I look back on it as a mistake. It was too early in my career to try it and I was still living in Cronulla with my mates travelling an hour and a half just to get to training. In the end, I spoke to Steve Rogers at the Sharks and he said I’d always be welcome back there so back I went.
Did you have a good relationship with Steve?
Yes. Being good mates with [son] Mat helped but even so, Steve was a good bloke and easy to get on with. I spent Christmas at their house the year before Steve passed away so we were pretty close. A year later, my house was all packed up ready to come to England when I heard the news about Steve and it was a real shock. On the surface he seemed a happy-go-lucky bloke, getting up every morning for his run along the beach and his boxing classes before work but I don’t think anyone realised what he was going through.
When you left Cronulla there was a tug of was between Wests and Castleford for your services. What happened?
My manager was the problem. He’d organised a deal with Wests Tigers and then went on holiday and told me we’d finalise it all when he got back. So I did two months pre-season with them and then went in the offices to talk about the deal. They didn’t understand what I meant because they said my manager had sent the contract back all signed which I knew nothing about and obviously I wasn’t happy. Mick Robinson at Cas heard about it and called me asking me to come over. I rang the Wests CEO telling them my manager had stitched me up and would they release me and in the end I went to Cas.
What did you know about Castleford and English Rugby League before you arrived?
Very little. I had no idea what I was coming into and I didn’t even know there was promotion and relegation in England! When I got here I learned that the team had just been promoted but I wasn’t bothered, I was just glad to be getting out of my deal with my manager. The biggest difference was the weather and people underestimate how important it is. I was coming from 30 degrees in Sydney to the freezing cold and you just can’t get much quality training done.
How do you regard your first year with Cas?
We struggled at first and it wasn’t until Danny Brough came in halfway through the year that we had a recognised halfback. If we’d had the side we finished with from the beginning then it would have been a different story. We didn’t even finish last; we came in ahead of Catalans and ended up being relegated despite having more points than any other side who had gone down from Super League. When we beat Leeds we thought we were safe and maybe relaxed a bit but as well as that the squad was really struggling with injuries and a lack of depth. As well as that, I was playing stand-off whereas I’d only ever played centre but I think that’s made me a better player.
Were you tempted to leave?
Yes, but not just because we’d been relegated. My idea was to come to England for a year then go back home so I was thinking of going back to Wests but I gave my word to Robbo that I’d speak to them last and let them have a chance to put the club’s position forward. With the club being relegated, I suppose I felt partly responsible and they told me they’d be putting a team together to come straight back into Super League and they asked me to stick around. I did and I’m glad I did.
Did you have doubts last season when, halfway through the season, Widnes looked to be the best side in NL1?
Yes, I suppose so and there were always nerves with it going down to one game at the end of the season. Widnes started well but we knew how good we were and in the end it couldn’t have gone any better. We saved our best performance for when it really mattered.
Are you pleased that relegation has now been scrapped?
Yes, they’ve done the right thing because you’re just living on the edge every week with the threat of relegation hanging over you. It’s impossible to build a side for the future with relegation and we can now stick with the young blokes which is better for everyone.
How do you explain beating Leeds and Saints but losing all your other games?
We’ve got a side that when everyone turns up and plays to the best of their abilities, we can win games. It’s just that we have a small squad and a few injuries really hurt us. But, in saying that, there’s probably been about five games that we lost but should have won. We probably shouldn’t have been beaten at home this year and if you take that into account, then we’d be a top six side. We’re just a couple of quality players away from being up there. I’ll be here until the end of 2012 and I’m looking forward to being a part of this club’s future.
Did you enjoy playing for USA last year?
Very much so. My grandma is American but until Mick Robinson asked me if I qualified, I hadn’t given it any thought. I didn’t even know they had a Rugby League side! It’s a bit of fun with a few trips thrown in and I’ve heard we’ll be playing Jamaica later this year. There are some good things happening for League over there and I’m pleased to be involved.
How did you end up posing almost naked for a calendar a few years ago?
[laughs]… It was for charity. David Peachey and a couple of others were organising it to raise money for Aboriginal kids in sport and they wanted one bloke from 12 different clubs. I turned up to the photo session and the photographer asked me to get my kit off! I had no idea they wanted me naked apart from a rugby ball.
You’ve a few Harley Davidsons haven’t you?
Yes, it’s something I’m really into. I bought my first Harley in 2003 and I’ve one back home and one here. I’m just waiting for some warm weather over here!
What’s your opinion of the club’s new reserve-grade winger?
I get on well with Dwain to be honest and it’s been good for the club. He’s a really good bloke and he’s arrived with the right attitude. To be honest I wondered if we’d see a lot of him but he’s great around the club. He asks questions all the time and he’s the first to training and the last to leave. He was off the pace in that recent reserve game but he’s a very talented athlete and he’s done a bit of sprint training with us which can only help us.
Do you think he’ll play Super League?
To be honest, I wouldn’t say no. It’s up to him and the club how far they take things but with the progress he’s made in such a short time, there’s no reason why he couldn’t turn out for us next year.