Jamie Peacock - Rugby Leagues real deal
PUBLISHED: 23:47 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:32 20 February 2013
Leeds Rhinos forward Jamie Peacock has a tell-it-how-it-is approach to life and his sport, reports Chris Irvine PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANDREW VARLEY
In this age of pampered sporting superstars with their agents, egos and entourages permanently in tow, the shy, retiring sportsman is something of an anachronism. It is why Jamie Peacock, the Leeds Rhinos forward and England rugby league captain, is such a refreshing change.
The rough edges are part and parcel of his make up. Nothing has been chipped off by public relations people with their spin techniques. Peacock is the nearest you will get in sport to the real deal, his honesty off the field matched by his noholes - barred approach on it.
There are no airs and graces to Peacock, no hidden agendas, no bull, just a tell-it-how-it-is approach to life. He has learned to conquer a shyness that belied a player of immense physical strength.
However, to compare Peacock's world with that of a David Beckham or Lewis Hamilton is frankly laughable, and yet there are few players of either rugby code in this country who command the respect that Peacock does. Should England win rugby league's World Cup in Australia in November, Peacock would undoubtedly come to the attention of a lot more people beyond the sport's northern heartlands where he already enjoys hero status.
His autobiography is required reading for anyone seeking to triumph over adversity. The book is no cosy whitewash or PR stunt, but a forthright account of a life challenged on so many fronts and of winning through as a player at Bradford Bulls and nowadays with Leeds.
'Putting your body on the line' is a well-worn phrase in sport, but no-one in my experience puts theirs in the line of fire to the degree that Peacock does. A Man of Steel award winner, international forward of the year twice and captain of his country since 2005, he is a player who leads and his team-mates follow to the ends of the earth for 80 minutes.
The pain barrier bizarrely never inhibits him. 'Some players have innate hand-eye coordination and vision but my body just seems to be programmed to put up with discomfort,' he says in his excellent book. His ability to deal with discomfort away from the pitch has been his other hallmark.
The gangly, skinny kid with poor eyesight growing up in Leeds, who nearly died from an illness when he was two and whose early rugby career was nearly ended by a firework exploding on his foot, dealt with everything thrown at him.
It is no secret that Matthew Elliott, the former Bradford coach, was not enamoured with Peacock's early insularity and parcelled him off to a student team in Sydney. Elliott's rigid stance was illfounded and Peacock's subsequent prolific feats with the Bulls are remembered more than Elliott's own achievements at Odsal.
You wouldn't catch Beckham or Hamilton removing their false teeth to speak a little more clearly. False teeth, moreover, made by his father, who runs a small business in that line and from whom Peacock has derived his hard working approach to life after an, at times, eventful youth which is all part of the growing up process that has transformed Peacock, at 30, into one of the finest players and captains of his generation, with leading England at the World Cup the crowning moment of his career.
'I'm a great patriot and to captain England at the World Cup is a dream come true,' said Peacock, whose dearest wish is to beat Australia in the final at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on November 22nd. Win that game and we could all be hearing a lot more from Captain Peacock.
Jamie Peacock No White Flag, Stadia, 18.99. Jamie also writes a regular column on The Times Rugby League Blog at www.timesonline.co.uk/try Read more Sport Talk with Chris Irvine on our website www.yorkshirelife.co.uk