‘My Life in Rugby League’ for League Express with a young Sam Burgess in 2007. The England forward is now one of the stars of the NRL, turning out for Russell Crowe’s South Sydney Rabbitohs.
How’s the Great Britain training camp going?
It’s good fun and it’s a real honour to be involved. There’s only been a couple of training sessions so far but I’m really enjoying it. We trained in Manchester on Friday with everyone there apart from Tony Smith obviously who was with Leeds at St Helens in the play-offs. Being picked in the train-on squad is one of the highlights of my career so far
It looks likely that you will be selected to play for the Northern Union against the All Golds.
Yes, hopefully. Tony has said that the guys who play in the Grand Final won’t play in the All Golds game so it seems that the majority of the train-on squad will play and it would be fantastic to be involved.
Will you be nervous when the Great Britain squad is announced for the Tests against the Kiwis?
I’m definitely nervous already but I need to get the nerves out of the way and just play my normal way. I’d love to be involved but there’s plenty of other players who are hoping for the same thing.
You can fill more than one position in the forwards. Do you think that will aid your cause?
Yes, it might do. I can play anywhere in the pack which is a bonus. My favourite position is loose forward where you have the extra freedom.
Are you over the Bulls’ play-off loss to Wigan yet?
It’s a tough thing to take especially when we’ve had a good season. It was our own faults though and we’ve got to get past it but there wasn’t much discussion over it to be honest. We just had our final meeting and everyone was really disappointed and shocked but it could even help us in the long run by getting us in the right mood for next season.
Millennium Magic was another difficult loss to deal with so you have some something to relate it to.
That’s right. I can quite easily get these things out of my mind and use them to motivate me but it was tough for some of the boys. In the end, though, it helped us. It was tough to take at the time but it helped to fire us up for games which has then shown us what we can do as a team.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Being picked for this train-on squad is a big achievement while being chosen as man of the match in this season’s home game with Wakefield is up there too. Then there’s my debut against Leeds last year at Headingley. We lost by two points to a last minute try converted from outwide by Rob Burrow. I was so excited but didn’t get nervous because it all happened so fast.
You finished 2006 in good form with pundits tipping you for big things. Is the expectation hard to deal with?
I try not to take any notice of it to be honest so I don’t feel the pressure. I want to improve my game of course and just get out there and have fun.
How did you first get into Rugby League?
It was through my family. My mum and dad both played so me and my three brothers were brought up to play the game. My mum toured Australia with the Great Britain side while my dad played for Dewsbury, Hunslet, Rochdale and also had a spell in France. As for my career, I was on a scholarship scheme at the Bulls for three years and then at 16, I played in the Foundation side. I played twice for them then played a full season in the Under-18′s side. The year after I played Under 21s then made the first team last year.
Do you remember much of your dad’s career?
Not really. I can remember being at games but don’t remember much about them because I was only about three or four. He was a big influence on us and also coached the four of us as well at one point.
You played at Millennium Magic this year just after his death. That must have been a very difficult experience for yourself and your brother Luke, who was making his Harlequins debut.
It was a really tough week but he’d said to us that he didn’t want us to miss a game. We did what he wanted us to do and it was hard but we played.
Your older brother Luke plays in Super League but do your younger brothers play as well?
Yes they do. They are on the Leeds scholarships. They’re twins called Thomas and George and they’re already as big and as strong as I am!
As a youngster, did it help having an older brother who played?
Yes it did. It keeps your standards up and we were always out in the backyard with a rugby ball. Luke’s had a good year, getting games at Harlequins. He’s back at Leeds now and hopefully he’ll get games next year.
Were you disappointed to miss the England Academy series against the Australian Schoolboys in December?
Yeah, I needed shoulder surgery which was disappointing. We had some good forwards like Ben Harrison and Joe Walsh playing but I’d love to have played. I saw the second game at Widnes which was really close and it was frustrating not to be out there. I’ve played against the Australian Institute of Sport though.
You’ve made a great impact in the Bulls side. Which other young players could do the same in the near future?
I played a lot with Dave Halley and Matt James. Dave’s a really fast and athletic winger and he’s done well in the first team when he’s been used. Hopefully he’ll kick on next year. Matt’s a front rower and he’s also got a lot of potential being so strong and athletic.
Which of the first teamers have helped you make the transition from the Academy?
I’ve learned a hell of a lot from Joe Vagana and Glenn Morrison and they’ve been a massive influence. Andy Lynch and Jamie Langley have been awesone too, teaching me new things. Then there’s Steve McNamara who’s a good bloke and a great coach.
Do you do much community work at the club?
Yes, there’s plenty to do here and as I’m single with no kids, I get a lot chucked my way. I really enjoy it and I like getting out there. There’s a lot of work with kids and presentations at schools which are great to do.
What did Brian Smith bring to the club last year on his brief visit from Australia?
Brian was good, not just at training but with the guys individually too, bringing quite a bit to our game.
What are your future ambitions?
To keep playing and to keep improving. Also to stay clear from injury and to get a Great Britain cap. Like most players, I want to achieve as much as I can.
Would you consider playing in the NRL down the line?
There’s always a chance but probably not for a few years. I’d love to experience the lifestyle over there and obviously the Aussies and Kiwis at the Bulls like to tell us how good it is over there!