Now, I’m not blaming the game for the path I have since gone down, but maybe if I had paid attention to what I guess the universe was telling me, I wouldn’t have chosen the wrong thing to concentrate on growing up.
My first rugby league setback happened in primary school; at the time, I was playing Australian Rules (AFL), a game that I wasn’t the best at. There were some representative trials called the MacKillop rugby league trials; rugby league wasn’t the only sport you could represent your region in; AFL, Soccer, Basketball and Cricket were some of the sports you could play in.
A friend, who also played both sports, and I spoke about doing the rugby league trials as we were better at it. When we both went to let our sports teacher know that we both wanted to go to the rugby league trials instead, there was only a spot for one of us. My friend Kevin (not his real name) got the place. As for the AFL trials, I was pretty bad, so I didn’t even look like getting picked. Rugby League 1 – Josh 0.
As disappointed as I was, I kept playing because I still thought I was good enough. From then on, some of the rep teams that I didn’t make were mainly because I would get to the final selection trials and would choke, but there would be some more disappointment down the road.
When I hit the ‘serious’ stage of wanting to make rugby league a career, I had a few setbacks; looking back, I could have done many things differently. I also know that if a couple of things had gone my way, who knows what my life could have been. Now, I’m saying that I could have played the State of Origin or even represented Australia, but who knows where life could have taken me.
In 2002 I missed making the Riverina representative team, but that wasn’t a big deal as I still had the chance to make the combined high schools countryside. I thought that making this side would be my ticket to the ‘big time’; however, my stupidity cost me the chance of making the side.
The day before the Country trials, I decided to play for my local club, we were playing an easy team, and I thought it would be my chance to have a great game and have some confidence going into the trial. It backfired on me, however, and I got a corked thigh with my last run of the game, a run that didn’t need to happen. My ego got in the way; I desperately wanted to score a second try, and as I got to the first defender, his knee got tight in the thigh, And it was in the last 20m. After being uncomfortable on the drive from Wagga Wagga to Illawarra, I tried everything I could to fix the injury, from rubbing deep heat cream on it to icing it. I even prayed just before I went to sleep (who does that, this guy!), but I woke up still in pain.
One last thing I tried before the game was to get the trainer to massage it out, but it was no use; I had to play on a sore leg. Not only did I make myself look bad, but I also made some teammates look bad. After this, I was inconsolable for days, my mum tried to cheer me up, but it didn’t work; I had all but ruined my chances of possibly getting signed by any team. The drive home from Wollongong was pretty unbearable, one of the guys I thought was painful at times made the side, and while I should have been happy for him, I wasn’t. Rugby League 2 – Josh 0.
After I finished school, long before I had decided to be a writer, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and following my stepdad’s advice, I decided to get a trade. I had been unsuccessful in getting an apprenticeship as an Auto Electrician and a welder; the only remaining thing I was interested in was butchery. This was a mistake, the place I worked was crap, and the pay was terrible, but hey, I had a job, so I looked on the bright side early on.
My dream of being a rugby league player was still there, and I had set my sights on open trials with the Canberra Raiders one Saturday afternoon. This time around, however, work got in the way. Since I was a first-year apprentice, I understood that the other apprentice had seniority over me, and he had to fill in for someone sick so that I couldn’t go. While bummed out, I was hopeful as I had one chance left the following year. Rugby League 3 – Josh 0.
The following year I was very excited; I had done some off-season training and felt ready to show the recruiters that I was worth a contract. Unfortunately, work struck again as the senior apprentice came and asked me if I could work the upcoming Saturday for him, the day of the trial. I had also worked the last four Saturdays, so I thought it was fair that I had the Saturday off. Looking back, I really should have seen my manager and taken some RDO instead of thinking that the senior apprentice would help me; I was very wrong. The day after I had asked if he could cover me, he called in sick for the rest of the week.
When I was an apprentice, butchery and most other trades considered working on Saturdays as overtime, and someone didn’t have to work it. I didn’t know this, and my stepdad told me and urged me not to show up. This was pretty big from my stepdad as I always felt that he thought I was never good enough to make it as a rugby league player. When I went back to my manager in a last-ditch effort to get out of the shift, he told me that I had to work as there was no one else. That same manager would say to me later (after being demoted) that working on Saturdays wasn’t compulsory. Calling in sick and going to the trials remains one of the biggest regrets of my life. Rugby League 4 – Josh 0.
I stopped playing rugby league in 2007 due to injuries. While my love of playing it wavered, my love of watching never did, and I enjoyed keeping up with the NRL and group nine.
Fast forward to 2021, and after years of letting work and life get in the way, I finally made it to the last year of my sports media degree. In the previous year of the degree, students had to do an internship with a sporting organisation, and I had my sights set on that.
After spending 2020 writing for Nothing but League, I thought I would have been a shoo-in to interning with the National Rugby League side. It was a very competitive field; unfortunately, I didn’t get it. I was bummed out and dwelled on it for a while, but I had to get on with trying to find an internship to get that degree. I got there in the end.
As for where the future may take me now that I’m a journalist, I’m hoping it will be back to Rugby League. If I don’t end up back there, that’s ok; it’s not meant to be.