Rugby: To Improve You Must TRY.
We join Gregory Loucaides, Head of Campaigns & Loyalty at Mr Green, for an insight into his international rugby experience. He shares how rugby culture has shaped his world and how an ingrained respect for others and self-control in less than idyllic situations is the ethos of his personal and professional life.
What is it about rugby that got you hooked, was it from a young age?
I started playing rugby when I was 4 years old – so I would say pretty young! That is quite a difficult question though as I can’t ever remember not playing rugby. I have always been a fairly big bloke and quite a boisterous youth… Yeah, I can’t answer that, rugby has always just been a part of my life.
What competitive level have you performed across your rugby career and what achievement are you most proud of?
Well there are 3 levels I guess.
From the age of around 12-16 I was playing for a team called Vigo RFC, which is a tiny little village club in the north of Kent (a county in England). However, in that team, every single member of the team were at least regional standard players with some (myself included) being Youth International players. So, this tiny club won everything, we thrashed everybody we played.
The next stage was after school, I went to play for Harlequins RFC (one of the top teams in England). This was in the years when Rugby Union was still an amateur sport, this meant that I had to earn a living to play rugby, rather than playing rugby to earn a living… I was unable to commit the training time needed to reach the first team at Harlequins and this was a major turning point in my rugby career. I feel confident that if rugby had been professional at that time I would not be sat here!
My time at ‘Quins’ was a great experience though, training alongside some legendary players such as my world cup winning idol Jason Leonard.
I was still a ‘casual’ rugby player when I moved to Cyprus at the age of about 22, the standard of rugby was somewhat lower than I was used to in the UK and I believe I was quite a standout player. When I arrived, Cyprus was quite new to rugby and there was no national team. I have Cypriot blood and I was eligible to play in the country’s very first international game. We played against Greece and walloped them 39-3! This was the start of a record breaking international team. To this day Cyprus officially holds the world record for the most consecutive international rugby union wins (24)!
Then my knees gave out – rugby is the love and the pain of my life.
Would you say that playing rugby has helped to shape you personally and your approach to business?
Yeah, I can drink a lot!
Seriously though, the main values are respect and self-control. You don’t moan, you get on with it, fix it – take the rough with the smooth. That is how I live all aspects of my life.
I have always been a leader on the pitch, being vice-captain, captain, coach. Leadership is certainly a quality I have gained from rugby, the ability to intimidate and being able to take a beating are two others. Rugby has completely shaped my life.
I also love the culture that surrounds rugby. Rugby can be vicious and seem violent on the pitch; you may have completely smashed your opponent a minute before the final whistle blows, however, as soon as the match is over there is huge respect for your opposite number and the team you are playing against.
It’s a tough game, anyone who steps onto that pitch I have respect for, you have to apply yourself and put in real effort, otherwise you won’t make it through a single game let alone a career.
When you were playing regularly, did you prefer playing at a higher competitive level or the more recreational side of the sport?
That’s a tough one. I loved playing high level rugby, loved it – hated doing the training it required to get to that level but, loved the rugby.
On the other side, when in Cyprus I enjoyed not having to do the 10 mile runs and sweating my butt off in the gym, but the games themselves were not as enjoyable nor rewarding.
I still remember every detail of many of the games I played in my youth, games that were so intensely competitive, you could walk off the pitch after the final whistle knowing that you had demonstrated that you are one of the best.
With maybe one exception … Jason Leonard… he is one of, if not the only player I have ever come up against in more than 35 years of rugby, that would regularly beat me in a scrum and could challenge me – he is the most amazing rugby player I have ever played against. He still holds the record as the most capped England international and is a character off the pitch too.
Jason Leonard, OBE
Mandatory Credit: Dave Rogers /Allsport
Rugby is an incredibly physical game, many players suffer from injuries that stay with them in later life, do you carry an injury with you? Did the thought of this ever put you off the sport?
Put me off? I have been playing for 35 years so, no.
Among the numerous injuries, I have broken my right ankle 7 times, I have broken both collarbones (at the same time!) and it’s only now I have any regrets. That being said, I don’t regret a second of being on the pitch, I just regret putting my leg at a certain angle, or allowing myself to be in a position to get damaged!
The only thing I do think about was the hardness of the pitches in Cyprus –, I did not take into account that the pitches were like concrete and the pressure this put on my knees. I now need an operation but after that I can never play again, so I will have it but not until I am at least in my 60’s as I can’t imagine not being around rugby even now.
Cyprus International Rugby Team
Mandatory Credit: Stephen Nicolaou
Should the risk of injury in rugby be more carefully assessed by those wanting to start playing?
Rugby is far safer now than when I started playing. I don’t disagree with the way it’s gone with head injuries assessments and such. I do miss the old-style rugby a little bit – scrums are so nice now. Scrums used to be vicious places to be, you couldn’t be a number 3 and not be tough, you had to be able to take a beating and give a beating.
However, if the safety concerns had been taken into account I might have had less injuries but it wouldn’t be the same game. Rugby is a sport where you put your body on the line. I would suggest you watch a few games before you try playing… if you don’t like the idea of taking a hit, you aren’t going to be ok on the pitch!
Which side do you fall Union or League?
Ha! League doesn’t exist.
I am a southern lad so Union 100%, 100%.
Do you have any wise words for budding rugby players looking to develop themselves further in the sport or even on a personal level?
Yes, rugby is not a game to get fit, you need a level of fitness in order to even set foot on the pitch at least until you get to a certain skill level.
If you want to play rugby, learn the basics – ball handling, body positions, how to protect yourself when tackling. But for me, cultivating the mental commitment to the sport and learning the intricacies of specific positions within the team – this will make you a decent player. That and the right attitude – rugby is not a game to play at half-pace – you need to be in, or out.
For me, (marriage and the birth of my child apart) there have been no more rewarding experiences.
A man that certainly knows his stuff, thank you Greg.
If you missed any of our past posts in this series then take a look at the Sport section of this blog and catch up on golf, cricket, tennis, eports or chess and how the skills learned in these sports helped shape the career paths and professionalism of our Mr Green employees.
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