We shouldn’t lose the things that are unique to Rugby
By Conrad Smith
Two-time Rugby World Cup winner with the All Blacks, Conrad Smith has been working with International Rugby Players on a global agent accreditation scheme. Here, the Centre, who’s currently playing in Pau in the south of France, talks about the need to monitor agents, as well as his plans when he finally hangs up the boots…
I sometimes look at how big the game is getting and the money that’s coming into the sport. And, in many ways, it’s fantastic.
But I do have concerns that we don’t lose the things that are very special and unique to Rugby. Those special and unique things came about because we were a small sport.
I’m talking about the sportsmanship between players and the sportsmanship between fans. The real camaraderie that comes about once the whistle blows at the end of the game; everyone can shake hands and leave behind what’s been going on for the last 80 minutes, players and fans alike.
There’s no reason why we’ll lose that – and I’m certain that we’ll keep it – but it’s one of those things we have to be careful of, as more money comes in. We can’t lose sight of those great characteristics that make Rugby so special.
I’ve been working for a while now with the International Rugby Players to expand the Agent Accreditation scheme on a global basis.
You’ll have heard some of the scare stories about why it’s needed. We did it in New Zealand and it was tricky. Initially we had some concerns and misgivings but I saw how well it worked eventually and how all the agents bought into it.Obviously, there will be more issues when you try to bring it in on a global scale but there are real benefits to all players and it would good to see the initiative come through.
Why did I get involved with the project? Mate, most guys would jump at an opportunity like this to help the game. This is an issue that could be a real problem in Rugby. You look at other sports that have encountered these problems earlier than us. It is a real issue in football and you don’t want it getting to that stage in Rugby. And let’s face it, if we don’t do something about it, then that’s a real possibility.
I love Rugby. I just love the game.
You have to have a personal drive to compete. As anyone who knows me well will tell you, I’m very competitive (to put it mildly!) Even though I’m not a big guy I still enjoy the physicality and skill of Rugby. It still gets me up each morning and each season.
I’ve been playing professionally for over 15 years now and I’m 36 years old. I’m not getting any younger but I’m still loving the playing side of things.
You can play Rugby for all different reasons but generally I find the guys who do play longest have pretty basic motivations.
If you are motivated by money or fame – and that’s all fine – you find that you might knock off a bit earlier or find a different pathway. For me, every time there’s been a major decision it’s always been pretty straightforward; I just love playing the game. I’m never looking for an extra buck, I just want to help the team that I’m in.
I think it’s only natural to look at the good and the bad when you move to a new country, not just with Rugby, but with life.
With regard to Rugby, I was immediately struck by the amount of quality and talent, especially among young players, here in France.
It’s often said by people here that they don’t have the quality that New Zealand has but I think that’s completely…. well, let’s just say, it’s incorrect
Coming from New Zealand I know it’s not the amount of talent we have…it’s what we do with the talent that we have. New Zealand Rugby is a very well organised outfit from top to bottom and it gets the very best out of the limited talent base and resources that it does have.
If France did it the same way; wow, it could be a totally different story in the Rugby world.
If or when players ask me about coming to France, or even just moving hemispheres, I’m always careful about giving my advice.It’s sometimes made out to be very simple by people or the press; money and lifestyle. Or just money.
But anyone who has made the move will know that there are so many decisions that go into something like this. There are a multitude of reasons and often money is just one thing. For me it wasn’t about the cash, it was about where I was in my career and about a lifestyle choice. So, I don’t like making blanket comments to young guys about coming over here.
Mais oui, language has been a massive challenge. My wife and I always wanted to learn a language and that’s why we came here… but it’s blooming tough! For my next article I’ll try to do it en Français…but for now I have to get over the comfort of speaking in English.
I’ll probably hang up the boots sooner rather than later and hang around here in Europe. I want to explore my options. I’ve spent quite a bit of time studying law. I don’t know if I’ll end up being a lawyer, but I’d like to get a taste for it. There certainly are more opportunities around Europe than back in lil’ old New Zealand.
Myself and the family want to experience new things, even if it’s a little bit of coaching, a bit of sports law or working with International Rugby Players for the good of the game.
Either way, hopefully I can find something that motivates me the way Rugby has.
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