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“It’s quite surreal,” says Jamie, who took time out from his jam-packed training schedule to speak with us. “It’s real tough sometimes, but when you think about it, it’s like, far out man, I’m actually training for rugby full time at the moment.”
Now that Jamie is with Tasman Mako permanently, he has had to put study aside. “It was quite hard balancing the two. I feel quite a relief because now I’m just focussing on the footy not the study.”
His plan is rugby all the way. Yet, should that change, Jamie is keen to return to NMIT to complete the diploma and the degree. He is also considering the one-year teaching course with Canterbury University so that he can pursue a career in sports teaching.
“If you can nail that degree with NMIT, that can open so many doors, whether it be at other Unis or a job or opportunities as an apprentice. And NMIT is really good with it. They’re linked with other colleges and stuff so it’s a real treat.”
Jamie trains everyday except for the occasional half-day off. The team also meet once per week for professional development. He, along with his team mates and the Professional Development Manager, use this time to focus on goal setting, skills development, and planning life outside of rugby.
The Tasman Rugby Union encourage all their players to have a back-up plan. They provide a range of scholarships and professional development advice to assist.
“Part of rugby is balance,” says Jamie. “You’ve got to have balance outside of rugby, because if you’re just doing rugby you’re going to get burnt out. They like to see an all-rounded player.”
The TRU and NMIT have a scholarship agreement that meant Jamie could study on a full scholarship with the understanding that Jamie may need greater study flexibility than most students.
“[NMIT] has been really good. A lot of the tutors there they all encourage sports and they’ve been lenient with me. When I went to the New Zealand under 20s, I had to drop about eight weeks of the course, but the tutors have helped by giving me extensions and giving me extra time to catch up, and they helped me out with my subjects.”
Jamie had to work extra hard to get into the under 20s squad that travelled to France earlier this year. The squad started with fifty potentials and gradually they dropped team members. “I got dropped once and then got called again,” says Jamie. “Then I got cut from the team that was going to the world cup and I was gutted, but then luckily I got the call and went.”
Despite playing rugby since the age of seven and achieving a spot with the Mako at the youthful age of 20, Jamie considers himself a “late developer” in the sport. He often missed out on the rep teams throughout his college years, he says, but maintained the drive to play professionally one day regardless.
According to Jamie, sports coaches value the role of study in the field of professional sport.
“They always look at your off-field. They obviously see a talented player, but the first thing a lot of the coaches will look at is how the player is off-field, and I think that studying with NMIT...that goes pretty far...when you see someone studying and playing rugby the impression is, man this guy has good character, he’s balancing the two.”