Tuesday 18 June 2019

'There is a lot more to me than rugby' - Jamie Heaslip on his two-fold approach to dealing with the media

Jamie Heaslip
Jamie Heaslip
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Jamie Heaslip is one of the most decorated players in the history of Irish rugby but the way he has been perceived in the media hasn't always been the most positive.

How he deals with the media became an issue when he was vying with Rory Best and others for the Irish captaincy following the retirement of Paul O'Connell.

In a wide-ranging chat with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery on this week's Left Wing podcast, the Leinster and Ireland number 8 spoke candidly about his approach to the media and highlighted the important role that journalism has played in rugby's meteoric rise in this country.

Former teammate Fitzgerald suggested that the Naas native doesn't do himself justice and that there was "a cohort that has never really warmed to you".

Asked if was affected by media criticism, he responded: "Not in the slightest.

"I have my friends from rugby and some guys from teams you might only see a handful of times at games or events and then there are guys who you know you are going to stay in touch with and I have my group of mates at home.

"Once I'm happy with my values and the people around me that I care about, not that I don't care about other people, but I can't control how other people feel about me.

"When it comes to the media. The media has played a huge role in the transformation of our sport especially in the last 10 years. It has transformed.

"I think we still have the record for the most people at a club rugby game versus Ulster at Twickenham in a European Cup final.

"They have played a huge role in it and they are entitled to opinions. They are people so they are going to like people and they are not going to like others. That is fine, I'm happy with that."

Heaslip outlined the two principles that represent how he deals with the press.

"The reason I say that I don't read them or don't take them on board is two-fold.

"One, my dad overheard me when I was in school reading the Leinster Leader or something tony brother in Japan, just the report of a game from the weekend, I had had a good game. I got off the phone and my dad goes, 'I'll give you one piece of advice when it comes to media and rugby. If you believe all the good stuff there writing about you, at some stage they are going to write something bad and you're going to have to believe that as well because that's how your belief system is set up'. I was like that's a good piece of knowledge.

"Then the way the coverage started changing. I think we were the first under-20s team to have a game broadcast on RTE when we got to the final against the All Blacks  and you saw that it was a lot different so I kind of stuck to that.

"The second principle is that the person with the opinion that matters in rugby is the guy who picks the team.

"I was coming over here and my brother was trying to talk to me about rugby and I just shut it down

"A way of putting it and Joe Schmidt actually said this to me one day. I'm not anchored to rugby like others might be.

"I love rugby, I'm unbelievably passionate about it and I want the sport to grow, I want more journalists writing about it, I want more people involved in it, I want more games, I would love if Leinster could play in the Aviva every week or rebuild the RDS to a 25,000-seater and fill it every week.

"It would be amazing but there is a lot more to me than just playing rugby."

He didn't dismiss the idea of going into punditry after his retirement but he declared a preference for one medium over others.

"The one medium I like is podcasts or radio because it's very hard to be taken out of context. I think this format is a lot more personable and a lot more honest," he added.

"TV can sometimes be a bit showy, it's a product.

"I like long formats."

Heaslip hasn't played since March and doubts over his long-term future in the game have hung over him ever since.

There is no timeframe on his return and he was coy on the subject.

"It's baby steps. Putting one foot in front of the other and taking it week-by-week, you know how it is with these kind of things.

"Getting healthy is the goal."

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