The former Rhino responds to your enquiries as he prepares for life in the Championship with Featherstone Rovers.
Tex Evans Thigh: What are your goals with Featherstone this season and beyond? After almost getting promoted last season and strengthening well in the off-season, another promotion push may well be on the cards. If Fev got promoted would you consider going back to a full-time contract in Super League with them?
Personally, it’s to contribute in the right manner. I want to make a difference. Being in a part time environment, I played full time for a number of years, I’ve represented England, there will be a fair old expectation of me to go there and make something happen which I’m really looking forward to doing and being a part of. Getting Fev where they should be. I live in Cas and the noise that has been made out of Fev recently has been great. Obviously, they were so close to gaining Super League recognition last year. I think if we can challenge again and show the desire and commitment they did towards the back end of last season, I’d like to push for promotion.
I don’t know. I could have stayed in Super League this year, it’s very different. It’s probably the time to see where I’m at in my life and where things are. If I’d have stayed full time, it would mean my little boy would have to have child care and the best years of his life are the younger ones where you get your education and you see a lot of changes in him so I wouldn’t want to miss that as well. I’m not too sure.
M j M: For various reasons Leeds fans made you into a bit of a scapegoat over the past couple of years. Did that get through to you and, if so, how hard is it to deal with when you sense some of your club’s fans aren’t fully behind you?
It does get through yes. With social media, you get quite a lot of messages. I suppose it’s very hard to get away with it when you’re active on social media like I am. It’s people’s opinions at the end of the day. My family find it harder than me. When you see some nasty comments, and sometimes they are really nasty, it probably hurts them more than it does me. I don’t really rise to the bait. No one has come forward to my face and said anything. That’s what gets me through it. If they came to my face and they had their moment and said their thing, warranted it and backed it up, that’s fine but there are a lot of people out there that call themselves fans and want the best for the club but they’re having a fair crack at the players. If you support your club, you’re a fan through the good times and the bad. The players like the support but it can leave a sour taste in your mouth with the fans and how they are sometimes.
JohnM: 3. All good things must come to an end eventually. Where do you see yourself in the game in 10 to 15 years’ time?
I would love to know! The thing that’s really changed within Rugby League now, there are some fantastic programmes for younger kids and it’s great if they buy into the college side of things and getting an education. When I came through, I went straight from school and I was training at Bradford on Inset days and school holidays. I had my eyes set on that and neglected the education side which is my bad. Going forward, I’ll be finding something. Nothing can replicate these last 16 years in pro sport, it’s really difficult. Now I’m in a pretty decent position where I can sit back a bit, enjoy family time and figure it out for myself.
Futtocks: How did it feel being left out of the 2013 World Cup squad, but making up for it with the late replacement call-up (after Hock did something Hock-ish) and your excellent performances that followed?
I had a great and tough conversation with Steve McNamara at the time. I played in the Exiles game that year, had a decent year and he rang me and said that I’d been great, he couldn’t pick me in the 24-man squad but we’d like to take 25 people away and you’re the 25th man. I said it sounded good but I don’t really know what to make of it. He said to come out and enjoy the experience, train hard and see where it gets you. I did that in South Africa. I came back and got picked for the Knights so I thought it would be an honour to put on an England shirt whichever one it is. I did that and then things happened over night literally. The next day we had a meeting and we left camp and that evening I received a phone call saying I’d be a part of the squad. I probably didn’t expect anything from it. I thought I’d go, have a good experience, be around the boys and see what it’s all about but on the Monday morning, he called me straight in and said that I’d be starting the opening game against Australia. I thought he was joking but the rest was history from there.
@emma_tr4_rhinos: What are your thoughts on the golden point, shot clock and interchange rule?
I like the interchanges. They’ve been good. I play 80 minutes so it never used to affect me really but it did with the bigger blokes, the props and maybe the hookers that get interchanged. I do prefer it; it makes it a tougher game and more of a slog.
Golden point has brought some excitement to a couple of games this year, it can be great but so, so tough when you’re on the other side of it so it’s a questionable one.
With the shot clock, I don’t think it’s made a massive difference. We’ve got to scrums sometimes and a lot of teams have taken their time and that extra ten or 15 seconds and waited. It hasn’t sped the game up like most thought at the time. I think the refs have had a decent handle on it and worked it pretty well but I don’t think that’s made much of a difference.
JohnM: 1. How much (if any) notice do you take of comments on social media and fans forums?
We’re out there to be judged but we’re judged seven days a week with how we are around the place and what we do outside of rugby. We do a lot of community stuff and a lot in schools which goes unnoticed sometimes but at the end of the day, they’re not picking the team. They think they know better ta job. If I get an electrician at my house and I’m not happy with the work, I’ll say that. With rugby and sport in general, it’s put out to a wide audience.
@briscoefaithful: Who was your best mate in the Rhinos changing room?
Probably say Liam Sutcliffe. I sat next to him in the changing rooms. He’s a good kid, I got on with him really well. He’s a very talented player with a lot going for him. It would be nice if he found a settled position for himself then he can kick on.
@ellie_bsmith: Who was the best player you played with or against?
I’d probably say Jamie Peacock. He’s probably not the most exciting player but he’s such a brilliant player. He worked hard in training and was brilliant to look up to when I came in at Bradford. What he showed and what he did in the games at Bradford, Leeds and internationally was pretty special.
Man of Kent: Do you find it harder to stay in shape as you get older?
I think you go through ups and downs with it. It’s not a secret that I put weight on very easily. I think it’s injuries that get to you more Injuries do take hold sometimes. It goes back to stuff that people don’t see, I’ve had a lot of operations and things and on treatment beds when you can’t do much. It can be hard but different people have different metabolisms so there is a lot thrown in.
doc: Have you any ambition to coach?
Yes I have. I’m going to Featherstone and hopefully I’ll be able to do a little bit there depending on which ages it is. There’ll be a little bit there. It would be silly of me to walk away from the game. I like to think I know a little bit about it. There’s something there that I’d be keen to explore.
DoubleD: Which of the crop of Leeds youngsters are you expecting to make the biggest impression/breakthrough this year?
I’d probably say Harry Newman. He came in quite a lot last year when Kallum left. I don’t know if they’ll swap him to the other side or keep him on the same side, he’s still got a fair bit about him. With a good pre season behind him, and a bit of confidence, he’ll probably get the 3 or 4 shirt. Keep his feet on the ground, he’s a good kid, if he keeps learning, he’ll be set for big things.
This feature was first published in Rugby League World (Issue 464, December 2019)