Weekend Interview: Wheel turns full circle for Jamie Langley

Jamie Langley: Up against Australia Schoolboys again.
Jamie Langley: Up against Australia Schoolboys again.
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IT should come as no surprise that Jamie Langley “likes” making sacrifices.

In his pomp, during those halcyon days with Bradford Bulls before things turned sour for the West Yorkshire club, he was renowned for being one of the hardest-working, most relentless players around.

MAGIC MOMENT: London Broncos celebrate promotion to Super League after defeating Toronto Wolfpack in the 'One Million Pound' match. Picture by Kevin Sousa/SWpix.com

MAGIC MOMENT: London Broncos celebrate promotion to Super League after defeating Toronto Wolfpack in the 'One Million Pound' match. Picture by Kevin Sousa/SWpix.com

Top tackler was almost a given. Hand him that dirty drive no-one else wanted, Langley was one of those selfless characters every side needed.

He could play a bit, too, as Tony Smith, the England coach who picked the back-row forward for the 2008 World Cup, clearly recognised.

Wakefield-born Langley does not have to make as many sacrifices now; he retired when aged just 31 in 2015 and, instead, is making a name for himself as a promising coach.

It is in that capacity that he has been back at Bradford, working as an assistant for the England Academy side as they prepare for today’s first Test against the revered Australian Schoolboys in Leigh.

It’s a great experience to go up against some fantastic players and it’s always quality to face Australia; there’s not many opportunities to do that.

Jamie Langley

Langley is back in Super League, too; he was right-hand man to fellow Yorkshireman Danny Ward as London Broncos mastered promotion from the Championship via the ‘Million-Pound Game’ in October despite it being the rookie duo’s first season in charge.

However, at only 34 does he not miss life out in the middle?

“No, to be honest,” he tells The Yorkshire Post. “I get asked that question quite a lot.

“I miss the competitive element, the day-to-day grind. I love my rituals. I have my habits. It’s not for everyone but it suits my lifestyle.

THAT WAS THEN: Jamie Langley, in his playing days with Bradford Bulls.

THAT WAS THEN: Jamie Langley, in his playing days with Bradford Bulls.

“Some players wouldn’t like having to make sacrifices as a player – you do have to make a lot – but I actually enjoyed that side of things. I loved it, in fact.

“But I know from a playing perspective and with the injuries I had, I just couldn’t compete any more; I’d have one half-decent training session per week and I struggled to walk some days. I knew I couldn’t do it any more.

“If I’d been one of those guys retiring when he still felt able to fire, it would have been a different case.

“But I couldn’t compete and my decision was always going to be on that.

“I wanted to help the next generation of players and help them achieve as much as they can but I knew I couldn’t do it any more.”

After more than 250 games with Bradford, including the 2oo5 Grand Final win over Leeds Rhinos and two World Club Challenge glories, Langley spent an injury-hit season at Hull Kingston Rovers before rounding off his playing career with Sheffield Eagles.

But was he always destined to coach?

“I always enjoyed it,” he explained.

“But I love rugby league; I’ve always been passionate about it.

“I was fortunate to play rugby league and make a career out of it.

“When I wasn’t playing, I quite enjoyed coaching. I did a little bit at my amateur club, Normanton Knights, and I did seem to always gravitate towards it.

“There comes a time, as a player, when you start to realise you are unable to get to the certain levels you need to compete at, the levels you need to to produce the standards you set yourself.

“Then you have to look at other areas. I’m a big believer in finding your passion and harnessing it; rugby league was and IS my passion.

“If I could help and pass the knowledge I had on to others – I knew I had a certain skill set that was transferable to coaching – then it was something I would always consider.

“I went to Sheffield Eagles more as a player-coach and I learned a lot there in a short space of time.

“Not every player can transit into coaching after retiring but I found it quite seamless.

“I’ve really enjoyed the psychology of it all and looking at things that can give us the edge.”

London certainly managed to do that this year, especially when it mattered in that promotion decider against big-spending Toronto Wolfpack in Canada.

Broncos had been given little chance of success 12 months earlier when head coach Andrew Henderson left to join Warrington Wolves’ coaching staff.

His assistant, Ward, was given chance in the top job and Langley – who had been working as London’s academy coach – was also promoted.

Against the odds, a young and exciting Broncos side went all the way, beating Super League opponents Salford Red Devils and Widnes Vikings in the Qualifiers to set up that shot against Toronto.

Through it all, the gregarious Ward looked to not have a care in the world, the former Leeds prop constantly beaming smiles and cracking jokes in front of the television cameras.

Langley admitted: “What you see is what you get with Wardy; everyone knows he’s extremely authentic and that’s one of his strengths as a coach, just how authentic he is.

“He gains that trust and there’s no ulterior motive.

“It’s very altruistic and emphatic how we work at London; we care about the boys and I think they buy into that.

“We have open discussions with the players on a regular basis and we do have a really good environment.

“We’re a very young staff, too – Danny’s a bit older at 38 – but we think that is what gives us a strength.

“We have such a good laugh together and it’s a great environment to go work in; you want to spend time there.”

Which brings us back to today and what England Academy are trying to create.

Langley knows first-hand the importance of this level of rugby; he captained England Academy when, alongside the likes of Jon Wilkin, Gareth Hock, Ryan Bailey and Luke Robinson, they famously beat the Australian Schoolboys in 2002.

“It brings it all back now,” he admitted, with the second Test at Headingley next Friday.

“I still have fond memories of my time playing for England Academy under some great coaches.

“Mike Gregory was head coach on our first tour to Australia and we had a great time.

“They came over here, too, and we were the first team to beat them – not once but twice – over a series.

“It’s brilliant now to come full circle from 2002 to 2018 and be in the coaching set-up myself, helping these boys trying to further their own careers.

“It’s a great experience to go up against some fantastic players and it’s always quality to face Australia; there’s not many opportunities to do that.

“It’s the first stepping-stone for them – a building block – in their careers and we’re looking forward to Saturday.

“Most of our prep’s been done at Odsal and it’s always great to be back there and see some familiar faces.

“I’ve always held a candle for Bradford; it was home for a lot of years and I’d love to see them do well again and one day – hopefully not at our expense – get back in there in the top flight.

“I always loved my time there and I still have a lot of good friends who I keep in touch with.”

The Jamie Langley story...

1983: Born December 21, Normanton, Wakefield

2002: Makes Bradford Bulls debut

2004: Comes off the bench in Bradford’s World Club Challenge win over NRL premiers Penrith Panthers. Also features in Super League Grand Final but Bulls lose out to Leeds Rhinos.

2005: Bradford avenge that loss as Langley helps them to success against Rhinos at Old Trafford.

2006: Plays in second World Club Challenge victory, this time against Tim Sheens’s Wests Tigers

2007: Makes solitary Great Britain appearance against France.

2008: Plays for England and included in World Cup squad that heads Down Under.

2014: Joins Hull KR but makes just nine appearances.

2015: Finishes playing career at Sheffield Eagles and joins London Broncos coaching staff.