This is an interview with the England captain, Jamie Peacock, for League Express after his autobiography was released in 2008.
How did the launch of your new autobiography No White Flag go on Saturday?
It went very well. There was a good turn out and there was a lot of interest in the book but what I was happiest with was an appearance from my old mate Brian McDermott. I thought he was just in the area with his team but when I realised he’d just come up for the launch, I was made up. He was a huge influence on my career. When I started out at the Bulls, Brian got hold of me by the scruff of the neck. Maybe he’d seen a bit of himself inside me and he showed me the ropes. I might not have kicked on if it wasn’t for Brian. He passed on some of his knowledge and it did me no end of good.
You were still playing amateur Rugby League at 19 and you hint in the book that you took some open-age amateur habits into the professional game.
Gaz Ellis was the same, playing amateur rugby pretty late. Some players slip through the net and some players just aren’t world beaters between the ages of 12 to 16 and I certainly wasn’t. And, yes, I played open-age, unlike the majority of Super League players and I was introduced to the sort of shenanigans that goes on in adult amateur sides. I was pretty wild back then and it took me a while to get rid of the drinking culture when I went pro.
You tell a great story of coaching Stanningley Rangers whilst a Bulls player and bringing yourself on as a second half substitute.
Yes, I shouldn’t have done that! There’d have been some big repercussions if I’d got injured and I was pretty reckless when I was younger, not really thinking of things like that. I did it to stick up for the lads who were getting knocked around in a game down in Nottingham. I’d played in a big game on the telly just a few days earlier then I was playing in Yorkshire Division Five but Nottingham isn’t really a League area and none of them knew who I was.
You picked up a hand injury in 2003 sustained while you had been drinking. How close did it come to ending your career?
When I first did it I feared the worst. I couldn’t move the hand before I got it seen to and then there were huge fears about how well it would heal. But, looking back, it was my career defining moment. At the time, I’d been playing OK but not really doing as well as I wanted. That hand injury, and the stupid circumstances surrounding it, refocused my life. I regret it but I don’t if you know what I mean. It was a foolish thing to do but it brought on some soul searching and it acted as a turning point for me.
British fans, in general, didn’t tend to appreciate David Waite and his tenure as Great Britain coach. You obviously disagree.
Absolutely. I was new to the Great Britain set-up when he came in but the older players couldn’t believe the changes that he made and how he ran the Great Britain side in such a professional way. He might not have been the greatest communicator with the press but I have the utmost respect for him and what he did for us. He took some flak when we were whitewashed in the 2003 Ashes series but, over the entire series, we were only behind for about 11 minutes. He took us to a level where we could compete for much longer periods than before.
Two years earlier, you scored a try in the first two minutes of your Ashes debut. Does it get much better than that?
To get off to a start like that was fantastic and Stanningley got £1000 for that try. But going on to beat them in that game was more important.
The media picked up on your comments in the book that you left Bradford because they found the money to buy Iestyn Harris at the time when they were refusing to increase your contract.
I wanted to speak to Iestyn about that last Thursday at Headingley but I didn’t get the chance. I make it very clear in the book how much I rated Iestyn as a player and that I think he’s a good bloke. It certainly wasn’t meant to sound like the media made it sound last week.
When did you tell Brian Noble that you were moving to Leeds?
I couldn’t tell him at first! It was the hardest day of my life when I went to tell Nobby that I was leaving Bradford. I went to see him but I couldn’t tell him that it was Leeds I was joining even though I knew he knew I was lying. We’d just been beaten by Leeds and he was watching the video when I went to see him. But it came out shortly after.
Was your first year at Leeds frustrating?
It was a bit and we struggled. My form wasn’t the best at the back end of the year because I’d thrown all my eggs in the basket at the start of the year, eager to impress early on and, in hindsight, that was a mistake.
You led us to victory against Australia in Sydney during the 2006 Tri-Nations. Is that right up there as a career highlight despite the eventual ending to the tour?
Well, we obviously wanted to win the Tri-Nations and we didn’t but that night in Sydney was very special. We’d been bagged a lot down there in the week leading up to the game so to beat them was fantastic.
How do you look back at the infamous Sean Long episode?
I always enjoyed playing alongside him and he’s a great bloke but it made things difficult for us. Him and Brian didn’t have the best of relationships on that tour but they both got on with it while Sean was there. In the end, as I said in the book, I think Sean backed himself into a corner by telling Brian he was going home when he probably didn’t mean it. In the end, I think pride got in the way and he wouldn’t change his mind.
Did Garry Schofield really upset the Rhinos players last year as much as you make out in the book?
When things aren’t going well you become defensive and protective of the other players and it’s human nature to not appreciate criticism and Garry certainly criticised us a lot last year. Then he tipped us to lose the Grand Final by 18 points. But I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and I suppose I’ve no real problem with him or his comments. Garry has strong opinions and that’s why they stand out. I suppose we maybe thought that because he played for Leeds then he should be more supportive. But, in fairness, he wouldn’t make much of a columnist if he just tipped us to win because he played for Leeds.
Are you pleased to see Gareth Ellis moving to the NRL?
For selfish reasons, no. I want him to stay at Leeds because he’s a great player and a big reason that we won the Super League and World Club Challenge. But I’m still delighted for him because it’s a great move for him. He’ll be a dominant player out there because he’s got the talent and an amazing mental strength and application that are second to none.
What does the future hold for you?
I’ve got a few more years left in me yet. I’m fortunate that I didn’t start till late and I look after myself well. As for the near future, I can’t wait for the World Cup this year. We’ll have a good team and a confident team over there this year. 2007 was a great year with the Grand Final and the wins over New Zealand and I want to experience much more of that before I finish.