- Heather Fisher: My story - read
- From university graduation to World Cup - read
- Rugby World Cup Sevens: Everything you need to know - read
I had to make a very adult decision at 19 years old, it all became very real.
I was at Harlequins, I'd come through their academy but I wasn't playing enough. So it was do I stick it out or choose to go to university?
I was in a Harlequins academy where above me in age groups they had Mike Brown, Chris Robshaw, George Robson, these guys who have had fantastic careers. I could see them and I wanted to do that and that drove me on.
I made my decision about not staying at Quins, thinking is that it for me and rugby? I remember being really, really upset on the day I Ieft. It was the unknown. I have potentially stepped away from playing rugby as a job.
Like anything you have to live with the decisions you’ve made. Hopefully I’ve made a good run of it so far and it all worked out in the end for me in that sense. .
I’m the youngest of three siblings, with an older brother and sister.
As I grew up both of them were playing sports and like any younger brother I just wanted to take part. We all went down to Camberley Rugby Club but at the age I was, they didn’t have a team for me so I just played in the Under 6s.
Our routine was Sunday mornings at the rugby club, getting a punnet of chips afterwards, douse it in ketchup and eat them. I remember it always being pretty nice.
My dad used to play. He was a winger. I’ve taken a lot of attributes from him physically I’m sure, but also his competitiveness as he’s one of those guys that just loves winning. My mum balances out in the sense of 'trying your best'.
My brother and sister both got injuries and it made them take a step away from rugby.
That was quite the realisation for me at how lucky and important it was that when I had the opportunity to play rugby I took it with both hands. My brother, sister and dad would’ve loved to have played professional sport.
We’re quite a tightknit group in that sense. My family are a big driver for me, trying to make them proud by doing what I love.
There are occasions where people will say 'do you want to come out?' or 'do you want to do this?' and sometimes you have to say 'I’d love to but I can’t' because if I go and turn up tired the next day, then you’re letting the boys down.
If you’re not training at 100% you’re not pushing them, they’re not pushing you and when you get to the final minutes on a matchday, you‘re not going to put in that 1% that you might have had. The levels are so competitive that tiredness is the difference between a win or a loss.
If I turn up and my hamstrings are tight or I don’t train very well, that’s my job, my livelihood. If you’re in an office and tired at your desk you’ll be thinking I could just have 15 minutes where I’ll just chill out.
That’s probably the biggest thing you have to commit to, the decisions. And then being happy with those decisions.
People will say ‘I can’t believe you do that’ but that is the difference between me and somebody else. There might be someone who has exactly the same physical ability, but that mental ability where they just can’t be bothered to not have a couple of pints midweek.
You add all of that stuff up over the five or six years that I’ve been doing this and in my head that is what makes the difference, making good choices. I’m not saying I’m a saint as you’ve got to enjoy yourself, it’s about finding a happy medium.
Having the people around you that respect you for it, they understand why and know it’s only finite. The way I am now will change when I stop playing rugby as I don’t have to worry about the same physical things.
There are a couple of things where doing it all, the sacrifices have hit me and I’ve thought ‘this is awesome.'
One was where we reached the final in the game against New Zealand in Hong Kong where it was a black rainstorm just as the game finished.
There was torrential rain and the Kiwis did a topless Haka in front of the crowd at the side of the field and I remember just thinking how amazing it was. We lost the final but that moment was incredible. I was there in the same way as a fan but I’d just played in the game.
Winning the Olympic silver was another one. I got back and we were really fortunate that where we live we have a cul-de-sac and my wife and a few friends and family hosted a street party.
A little boy who lives across the road from me called Charlie, who’s a huge football fan, made me this Phil Burgess silver medallist sign and I thought that was so cool. That was something else in fact.
Then the third would be getting that first World Series victory in Tokyo. They stick out and are things I like to think back to.
Hopefully there are more to come.