THIS week I watched a spirited Portuguese side test the mighty Spain in their bid to make the European Championships final.
Portugal’s outstanding player – I felt – was Cristiano Ronaldo who was presented with lots of opportunities thanks to the hard-work ethic of his comrades.
Ronaldo is immensely talented and feared but he never capitalised on chances that normally he would.
He knew it, too, as he seemed to watch himself on the big screen almost as often as us at home.
In the end it came down to penalties where Ronaldo – according to some reports – placed himself last in the pecking order, where all the glory would have shone had they been in favour of the Portuguese. Yet Alves missed the fourth and Fabregas saw the Spanish home before Ronaldo ever had a chance to put himself on the throne.
Maybe naively, I could not see why he opted to go last; surely a player of his stature would be first to take responsibility in getting the job done?
Before I went to bed, one quote kept buzzing around my head from a certain Jamie Peacock MBE: “Talent is overrated.”
If you are ever lucky enough to listen to one of JP’s keynote speeches it is a topic he would very likely touch on. I also have the privilege – almost weekly – of seeing him practise exactly what he preaches and demonstrate just why talent is overrated.
I think talent only works to serve desire. There are so many talented individuals out there who do not have that selfless, sacrificial desire to take action and do whatever it takes to get the job done, the type of action where the resulting gratification may be years away from repaying the investment. Warrior is a word oft used to describe JP’s relentless strength, fitness and a toughness, in my opinion, only rivalled by Monty Python’s Black Night. Despite playing a game where the sum of impacts are equivalent of being in a minor car crash every week, I have never seen him exhibit pain or take a backward step. Like a “hero”, hard work, graft and sheer determination are his power and the best example I have ever seen – always first to put his hand up, contemptuously feeding off anyone who dares challenge or doubt him.
He has inspired me immensely over my career both as a friend at Leeds and foe at Bradford. I imagine he has been the leading example for many, many more.
Nearly all things in nature suffer a form of entropic energy dispersal – metal rusts, ice melts, and people age. Nothing remains in its original state forever but, unsurprisingly, Jamie has stayed in a world-class state far beyond an age where most would be happy to just still be able to play.
In the last week, however, he has decided now is the time to retire from international rugby, concentrate on Leeds and let the next generation of players take their places in the build-up to the 2013 World Cup. For other ageing athletes this is where talent would take its entropic course and start to dissipate rapidly. But JP is more than that; he is a mentality, a paradigm, an attitude of the conscious mind which is not only contagious to those near him but continues to perform long after the body has slowed to a halt.
I’m grateful to be able to continue to experience who he is at club level for further time to come and see more of that sheer determination which attracts more success than anyone will ever be able to quantify.
More importantly, though, as someone fortunate to coach some of the young Rhinos players who will eventually replace the old, I see the congenial legacy JP has created for generations to come.