Wayward Jamie Thackray settles down at Workington Town
Last updated at 12:19, Friday, 05 October 2012
Fallen Super League star Jamie Thackray believes he has landed on his feet at Workington Town.
After being shunned by SL clubs because of his reputation for nights out and rows with coaches his top-flight career was over.
He admits that the prospect of dropping two divisions to join Town was one he rejected – at first.
Thackray said: “One minute you’re playing in front of 80,000 fans in the Challenge Cup final, with fireworks going off and Katherine Jenkins singing, and the next you’re playing in front of 700 fans.
“It’s heartbreaking really because I know it’s all my own fault. Sometimes it makes me bitter and I don’t want to be bitter.”
But the move to Derwent Park is one the 32-year-old prop is glad he made.
He said: “When I heard Town were interested I thought I wasn’t going there, no way.
“I thought dropping down two levels after having been in Super League for 12 years was too much of a drop.
“But, when I met the directors, they were so good to me and they have some really good young local players so I just decided I would give it a go.
“They’re good people here, with hearts of gold, and I really appreciate how kind they have been.
“I wanted to help them get promoted and I definitely believe there is a place in Super League for a Cumbrian club.
“I remember my first training session, a cold, windy night on a field in the middle of nowhere, and the ball hit me on my ear and it hurt for five hours afterwards because my ears were so cold.
“But we played in a friendly against Whitehaven and I thought ‘they can play.’
“Super League is much faster and the tactics, wrestling and skill with the ball are much better, but there are a few boys in the Town side like Graeme Mattinson, Brett Carter, Elliott Miller, Brett Philips and Jarrad Stack who, with full-time training, could play at that level.
“A lot of top players would have retired rather than come here because they would think they were too good.
“But, at the end of the day, when you start playing rugby league you don’t think about making loads of money and being famous, you just want to play because you love the game.”
The high spot of his career was Hull’s Challenge Cup final victory over Leeds at Cardiff in 2005 after joining the Airlie Birds from Castleford Tigers.
“I trained the house down that season and played in 35 games and in the final,” said Thackray.
“I was named in the end-of-season Super League Dream Team. I was 25 and it was the time of my life, but also the start of my troubles.”
Success, fame and money, he openly admits, went to his head, and he went off the rails. While it didn’t affect his performances, his behaviour became a concern for his coach.
“You can buy what you want when you’re earning that kind of money, but you don’t appreciate what you’ve got at the time,” he said.
“Even when I was at school, I wasn’t thick as I used to be in the top sets but I was always getting sent out for mucking about. Yet when it came to sport, I wanted to be up there with the best.
“I didn’t listen to my mum and dad when I should have done.
“When I was younger, I wanted to be out all the time chasing girls and stuff. I would go on stupid benders and not come back until 8am.
“But I never had warnings for missing training or turning up for training stinking of booze. I was always dedicated and worked hard. There were a lot worse players out there than me – and some of them are still playing Super League.
“My name still rings a bell with people and people think they can’t take me because I go out too much.
“I was having relationship problems at the time, but I’m now with someone who I wish I had been with five years ago. If I had been, I would still be in Super League.”
With Thackray one of the hottest properties in rugby league, Tony Smith beat Bradford Bulls to his signature when he signed him for Leeds Rhinos.
His dream move to Headingley saw him miss only one of Rhino’s first 28 matches in 2006, and at the end of the year he won his three Great Britain caps in the Tri-Nations Series.
But things turned sour at his home-town club and he ended up being frozen out by Smith’s successor Brian McClennan.
He returned to Hull for a second stint in 2008 and helped them reach Wembley, but this time their injury-ravaged side lost in the Challenge Cup final to St Helens.
Moves to Welsh side Crusaders and Barrow followed, before he joined Limoux in the French Elite One division.
With Limoux facing a financial crisis, he returned to England and the downward spiral in Thackray’s fortunes saw him arrive at Workington Town.
But he’s accepted his fate and knuckled down at Town, where his inspirational performances have helped to carry them to promotion and earned himself a place in the Championship One All-Star team along with team-mates Jason Mossop and Graeme Mattinson.
He said: “As long as I keep myself in good shape, I could play in Super League at 35 or 36.
“Steve Menzies at Catalan Dragons is nearly 40 but he’s still one of the top players in Super League.
“I still believe now I could play top-level if I was full-time.
“I’ve always done the business on the pitch. No one has ever questioned that I’m good enough for Super League; it’s all down to off-field problems.
“Everybody grows up at some stage. Everybody knows I play well week in, week out for Town.
“Opponents make it harder for me as they want to prove themselves against me. You can’t just turn up and think you’re going to rip them to shreds.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve and train to win every game.
“I’d love another chance in Super League – but I think it might take a miracle.”
First published at 11:50, Friday, 05 October 2012
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk
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