This was no normal interview. Have you ever had the chance to interview an idol or absolute legend of a certain field? That was my experience and now I get to share it with you. I got a lot out of this interview. Playing along side this legend I’ve learnt a lot. When you play with someone, you get a strong sense of their values. Not just as a rugby player but as a human being. JP never backed down. The man just doesn’t give in and will always retain the coolest head, despite being the toughest guy in the game. And now I’ve been granted permission to ask him 21 questions and hopefully as a reader, you will experience this special opportunity with me.
1. Laser eye surgery and a plastic bag JP- What does that mean to you?
Haha, you know the tale. I was short sited as a young lad. I was playing a game at dusk and I was daydreaming. I turned around and saw the ball, dived on it and it turned out to be a white plastic bag. That’s how short sighted I was. Then I got contact lenses. It lead to me having laser eye surgery. It went really wrong. I nearly crashed the car on the way home. Something had caused an allergic reaction; it was like cigs being put out in my eyes. I went to the eye hospital and took just about every painkiller I’d accumulated in my career and then passed out for a couple of days. Normally you can see properly after 3 days but it took me two weeks to get right from it. That was about 6 years ago when we had some time off and had been knocked out off the challenge cup. We had a week off. I booked into get it done straight away, two weeks later the next fixture came up and I couldn’t even see properly…
2. How do you feel now you’re not having the nervous energy in the changing rooms, do you miss it?
There’s ups and downs to all of it. I find game days hard because I have no real influence on it. I find it tough watching the games at Hull KR, I find that difficult to do. I’m so involved during the week but then on game day I’m not. I have no influence on that day. That’s what good coaches are for. I can be around the dressing room but my part is more during the week. The thing I miss, perversely, is taking the ball in off the kick off- the first big thing of the game. I probably got sick of doing it towards the back end of my career. But some days I wake up and think, you know what, I wouldn’t mind just having one of them, just having another crack at that. I’m doing other things, which gives me the physical challenge. Nothing can make up for that feeling when you are trying your best for your team mates in a tight game with thousands of people shouting for you. And you’re in the hurt locker. The thing is, the stuff I do now is on my own and that highlights why playing in a team was so special. It makes it that much better when you are doing it as a shared collective. That shared sense of pain and achievement. There are obviously other good things in your life but…
Addressing me personally he said…
You will miss playing…
It’s the sense of achievement. What I’ve started doing is a long run or I climb Snowden or do something at the end of every week.
I’m only the assistant coach of an u/11s team but it’s class, when they win, I win. It’s amazing.
I understood that. Something that has come to me personally over this last year is that you only have one crack at it. JP must have realised that, then he left a legacy.
3. What thoughts went through your head before you played a game?
The process of me playing a game wasn’t just the day; it was a week long process.
I spent time during the week imagining me playing well or managing certain situations properly. Imagining me playing well against certain people. The day of the game it was me getting in the state of mind to hurt people and I would want to do whatever it takes to win- you need that bit on game day. You can’t roll around all week with that mentality. The mentality to hurt someone and do anything has to be game day specific. I knew what I needed to do to play well; it was just making sure that I did that.
I interrupted JP here and reminded him of how half an hour before we would go out to play, he would have music pumping- LOUD – through his headphones.
Yeah and I think music is really good and emotive. If you have a really good game, use that bit of music again. It’s really easy to align pieces of music with moments in your life. There is that theory isn’t there, where music above a certain BPM allows you to do something more concentrated and something more physical. It would also be a case of me concentrating on what I was going to do and then it was a case of making sure everyone else was switched on.
I added that he obviously had a leader/ captain type role to manage too and he agreed…
I would speak to players individually and make statements, which everyone would have to buy into. I’d also tell people what I was going to do. It’s a verbal contract then. It’s a contract, which is saying you aren’t going to let your teammates down.
Its okay having a goal in your head but you have to get it out there.
4. If somebody didn’t like you, what would they say about you?
Oh, well they’d say: I’m opinionated, stubborn, to the point (maybe too much), I can rub people up the wrong way. It’s a good question. Hopefully there’s not too many of them. Especially in my role now, the easiest way for me to fail is to make sure everyone is happy. I’ve always thought, if someone isn’t pissed off with me, I’m not doing my job properly. Whether that’s my family, friends, teammates or the opposition- then I’m not doing my job properly.
5. What gets under your skin and makes you bite? I spoke to Jamie Jones Buchanan yesterday and he said he could never get you to bite, whether that’s biting at your ear in the combat room (padded room where rugby league players smash into each other daily) or in every day life, what is it that you hate?
Quick as a flash he answered this one…
Do you know what I fucking hate, it’s wasted talent. I despise it. Hate and despise are strong words. I very much dislike wasted talent. It’s people who have a talent and they aren’t prepared to work hard and make the most of it. Wasted talent is just not right- that annoys me. And bad driving gets under my skin but that’s about it.
I was about to move on and he added something else…
FALSE! People who are false I don’t like. I’d prefer them to be honest to me and I not like them, than be false about something.
6. Body language- what is your view on that?
Its massively important, for me one thing I had to do was make myself look big coming out of the tunnel. When you’re the leader of the team you have to look confident and you need to portray that to the other team too.
I’ll tell you a story…
When Warrington beat us in the Challenge Cup final, in 2012. I was looking at our team and we were really nervous and fidgety. The Warrington team weren’t because they had won there before. I was cool because I’d been there before and was ready to win again. Then we got to the Grand Final at Old Trafford in the same year. It’s 3 months on and we are playing the same team in the final. It’s Warrington and they’re fidgety as fuck and our boys are just looking forward, hands on hips, cos we knew we were gonna go there and win. It’s infectious too; if you yawn, everybody yawns around you.
7. We get whacked on the face all the time and it’s dealt with pretty easily. Is there anything in life where you feel like you have had a crack on the nose and you feel like you could cry? Is there anything in life, which has made you feel like that and you are trying to keeping away the tears?
Erm…. I find it hard watching the news sometimes. The 10 o’clock news can give you a real perspective on life. Sometimes you can think things are bad in sport and then you can see something which happens to kids in Syria and that really hits home. It just shows how trivial sport is really and at times, you can think it’s your world. I sometimes see stuff like that and can find it hard to hold back that sort of emotion. Or if I see neglect or abuse to kids, when you see a kid disadvantaged, when there’s nothing much you can do. Being in and around amateur clubs you see it a lot. Parents don’t care as much as they should do and it gets to me does that.
‘Get off the bus moments’… JP has come up with this analogy after an experience as a young rugby league player who had been invited to a Bradford Bulls training session. He jumped on a bus to get to training. The bus ran from near his house all the way through to Halifax. The bus he was on reached the stadium where the Bradford players were training. Instead of choosing to ‘get off the bus’ – he froze and stayed on the bus. He sat there all the way to it’s terminal in Halifax. At this point he didn’t back himself. He then went on to captain that same team to the Grand Final, World Club Challenge and Challenge Cup honours and collecting the Man of Steel award, which is individual recognition from the whole of rugby league considering you to be the best player of that year.
It seems he made a choice to back himself at some point.
8. Has there been many points in your life when this has been even more relevant in the transition of you retiring and becoming your role?
My view on life is that you have to back yourself because no one else will.
If you don’t back yourself then you will fail in big moments. So for me there has been plenty of big moments. I’m at a new club with a different set of people. This is all new. There has been quite a few moments where I have had to stand up and speak but I’ve just thought I’ve got to back myself here, over a player or over a coach. ‘Yeah this is the time, I’ve gotta get off the bus and make the call’… It’s just imperative that you have belief in what you’re doing.
9. Is there anything you had to do at the time, which would be considered bad, but is rewarding now that you did it?
I don’t regret anything. There will have been plenty of moments where I may have been with the family and just not really been there. Just vacant. But I think to make it in any walk of life, you have got to be obsessed by it. If you’re obsessed by something then other people get hurt in your life. I don’t regret it. However, it’s just how it is. I think every top sportsperson will tell you the same thing. That they have not been able to do stuff or be places purposefully. One time doesn’t stand out for me because it was just a continuous path.
10. If I said ‘successful person’, what pops in to your head?
11. How do you cope with being so intense? Has it changed now?
No, it’s got worse. It pisses off people around you and then you will get pissed off with people who aren’t as intense as you. This can cause moments where you will get real down about things. The best way to cope with having intensity all the time is that you have to accept that other people don’t have it and learn to deal with that. And also personally I have to accept that what I’m doing is not important in the grand scheme of things. Again you go to the perspective of the 10 o’clock news. Shit day, things haven’t gone my way and I’ll get home, sit down, and try and get some other perspective from somewhere, that way you learn to cope with it, I think.
It just brings it home really. And then a good nights sleep is as good as anything Stevie.
I think he might have thought I looked a bit ill at this interview. You can always tell where you are at with JP. He’s not fake, nor does he put any fronts on. You get the same JP whether his edge is pissed off, happy or stressed; he always has the same sort of substance about him. He’s delved into my character before in 2013 and we had a chat about it. Maybe he was telling me to have a good sleep. This writing malarkey doesn’t really allow that. But anyway, carrying on…
You’ve just got to learn that, that being whoever you are and to be comfortable in your own skin. That’s just who you are.
12. I’ve learnt that you have a lack of tolerance for people not on your wavelength of effort?
I have a lack of tolerance for that because effort is a choice. Effort is an absolute choice. You decide how much you are going to put in. In to anything. You have to accept sometimes that there are circumstances behind other people not having the same amount of effort because there are other problems in their life. I think that whatever you do, you have got to do as well as you possibly can. That’s why I get frustrated with some people. I’m just intolerant to it. In my new role I won’t tolerate it. That’s the one thing I won’t tolerate – a lack of effort. Ultimately, if you’re going to work with me or under me then that’s what you have got to have all of the time. It’s a non-negotiable for me.
13. It’s possible that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, what do you think to that?
I’ve heard this theory before… I reckon you probably take a couple of percent off the 5 people you spend the most time with. I’ll put another slant on that for you. I reckon 80% of me, is me. My edges are the 5 people I spend a lot of time around. But you are you.
The best analogy for that is: I’m ice cream, I’m always gonna be ice cream. The sprinkles that go on top (like hundreds and thousands and chocolate buttons), they are the only people who change slightly how I taste and that’s my take on that. I think they shape some of your edges but you are you.
14. If you could leave a legacy in any other arena, what arena would it be?
I think that politics would be a good thing. To do the right thing because its right. Not the popular choice. It would be hard to do it that way. However, I think that it would be real interesting to try and then leave a legacy. It would be nice to have a good crack at that.
15. If no one dared stop you doing anything at all, what would you do?
Smiling he said: There’s a few things in that…
I’d like to be around something to do with big businesses exploiting people. It’s profit at all costs. I just hate the idea of that. And then you link it to the medical trade, which don’t bring out new medicines because they don’t make enough money from them. I think that is just a shit way to be. I would be some kind of legacy like that, just to be held accountable for doing the right thing.
16. This next question links pretty well. If you were gonna campaign for Prime Minister, which 3 people would you take with you, if you already had political advice?
He had a wry and baffled smile and said
That is fucking interesting.
17. How do you get on with a teammate if you dislike them?
Do you know what, as much as I’m intolerant for lacks of effort, there’s not really anyone I had disliked after playing with them. People who play rugby have a shared sense of values really. If there was one, I’d probably just ignore em or tell em why I didn’t like them.
18. What has been your darkest moment in your career?
There’s been a few really…
Performance wise, it would be the 2001 test match in Sydney. We got beat 64-12 and I woke up to a headline of ‘THE DEATH OF RUGBY LEAGUE’ on the Sydney Morning Herald. I felt responsible for that, we were terrible in that game, we were embarrassing.
Personally, it would of been when we were away on camp in the Yorkshire Dales in 2011. I was coming off the back of my ACL injury (snapped ligament in knee) and I came off my bike and bounced off my knee. Danny McGuire had had the same injury as me but done it 2 weeks earlier than me. And then I’d come off my bike. I wasn’t getting anywhere and it pushed me back 4 weeks. We were in this hostel, my knee had swollen up and I hadn’t spoke to any of you boys, there was no phone signal and they really were a couple of real lonely hours. I thought my career had finished and didn’t think I would come back from it.
19. How do you balance your family life with your career now?
There’s an understanding that I’m not gonna be there all the time but when I am, it will be quality time with them. That’s my aim. I take them to whatever they want to do. Whether that’s gymnastics, swimming or rugby, just to get some value out of the time I spend with them.
20. What are your views on Conor McGregor?
Oh! He gets it doesn’t he. There’s no one better at playing the media and PR game. He’s a bloke who gets that to make money he has to be controversial.
Underneath that, there is a bloke, who works really hard. I don’t respect him for his mouth but I respect that that’s what he is doing to make money. I respect that he has come from nothing to become something.
He got lost in the money; the drive in the fighting game gives you the edge to get the top.
He got to where he wanted but didn’t reset his targets properly.
Quickly slipping in another question…Do you think it’s important to renew goals/dreams?
Yes of course, you have to move on. If your circumstances change, then you have to change.
The way you have to look at things is: Is this helping me become something? If it isn’t drop it. If it does then carry on with it.
21. Is there a certain stage in your career you had to go through to get to where you are and made you as resilient?
Yeah there’s a few. I went off to Australia and then after coming back I didn’t get straight into a contract.
After about 4 weeks Bradford offered me a contract. Then that pre-season, I trained 3 times a day. The team would finish training and I would go and do another session on the nighttime, every night. That was a tough period. In 2003 when I smashed my hand through the glass and cut all of my hand up- my career plateaued a little bit. I was drunk and as a result of that I was out injured for like 6 weeks. That then made me think that I was probably drinking too much. I had gone away from that work ethic. Then I had a realisation that I had to work harder than everyone else and continued with that. Things started happening again for me.
Good questions those…
BONUS QUESTION: I asked Jamie what his ultimate non rugby league player dream team would be. He gave some interesting results! To instantly unlock his dream team, please use the free subscription box below.
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