by Marcus Leach
There are few team sports out there as tough and physically demanding as rugby league, and to make it at the very top level takes plenty of dedication and hard-work. One man who knows all about it is Huddersfield Giants wing Jodie Broughton.
Having started at Leeds Rhinos as a teenager, Broughton went on to pay for Hull FC and Salford Reds before finally settling at the Giants. It hasn't always been easy, and he has had to make sacrifices along the way, but the rewards of being a professional rugby player have all been worth it. The Essential Cyclist caught up with him to find out a little more about the life of a professional rugby league player.
Marcus Leach: From what age did you realise you had the potential to become a professional?
Jodie Broughton: I was a lot smaller than a lot of the other members of my team when In first started playing, and it wasn’t until I got to around 15 years old that I had a growth spurt and started to get faster. At 16 years old I got picked up by the Leeds Rhinos to enrol on their scholarship scheme, it was then that I gained the belief and realised that I had what was required to become a professional rugby player. I used to train really hard and do loads of extra training before and after sessions, I knew what I wanted to be and I made sure I gave myself the best chance possible of getting it. When all my friends were starting to go out I kept my head down and trained hard.
ML: What does it mean to you to be a professional sportsman?
JB: It really is an honour to be playing at a professional level; it took a lot of years of training and development to get here. The buzz you get when you run out of the tunnel onto the pitch to cheering fans is unbelievable. In professional rugby you face different challenges every week and I know how important it is to try and remain focused at all times because one lapse in concentration could cost the team.
ML: What is the hardest aspect of being a professional sportsman?
JB: I have got to say it is pre-season training. Now that rugby is a summer sport our pre seasons start around November and are gruelling. That first day after you turn up to training after the off season dreading the yo-yo test and knowing that if you don’t get a certain score you will be getting flogged an extra day for the next 6 weeks is almost unbearable. A typical pre-season day could consist of pre-hab and stretching followed by a warm up. We then go into three skill drills on the field (it is winter time so usually freezing and raining) then straight into fitness conditioning which usually lasts for around half an hour. We would then probably finish off with some full contact defence/wrestling work, after which we will go into the gym and I do a big weights session. We train 5-6 days a week in pre-season but the days really shorten up when we are in season. I think that it is this time of year that the team really bonds and the standard is set for the rest of the year.
ML: And conversely, what is the most rewarding aspect of it?
JB: There are a few different moments that make you feel like everything you do is worth it, when you run out in front of a big crowd and you get that cheer, you get this uncontrollable feeling in your stomach which makes you feel like you can do anything. Another rewarding aspect of being a professional is when you can see that you hard work is paying off. It might be something small like executing a certain planned move which you have been practicing in training. If I come off a field knowing that I have done all I can to help my team, then I am happy.
ML: Is it difficult going back to play against your old clubs?
JB: It is very daunting the first time you go back to your old club, you come out of the tunnel for the warm up and when your name is announced you get a massive ‘boooo’ from the opposition, it’s all fun and games really but you can feel the hostility and it makes you feel like everybody is against you, whereas in reality they aren’t really. I remember the first time I played against Hull FC after I had move to Salford Reds, I was warming up in the corner right next to the FC fans and I could hear my name being shouted but I was trying not to listen to hard or it might have put me off. As soon as the game kicked off the first few times I touched the ball I got ‘booo’d’ I remember chuckling to myself because that is what I used to do when I used to go watch my team as a kid.
ML: How does training vary during the season and pre-season?
JB: Training is massively different in season to pre-season, the days in pre-season are much longer, because you haven’t got a game at the end of the week the coaching staff are not really bothered if your legs are heavy or your body is sore. We do fitness around three times a week and the nearer it get to the season the more it tapers off. We do things for a lot longer in pre-season, wrestling, gym sessions, fitness and skills, whereas in season everything is short and sharp. The coaching staff try not to keep you on your feet too long during season because they know it could affect your performance at the weekend. The conditioner (Greg Brown) makes certain people wear a GPS monitor so he can monitor how far we are covering during the week. We still cover all the different elements that we do in pre-season with the same intensity but for shorter periods of time.
ML: How important are the supplements from USN to your performance and recovery?
JB: The supplements I get are outstanding. I must admit, before I met the USN team I was probably a little naïve and didn’t realise how much diet and supplementation could help my performance. I met up with Karl Bickley and he discussed a huge range of supplements that were available and how they could help. Over time I trialled different ones until I felt that I had the ones that worked best for me. I regularly speak to the team about what is available and they help me decide on what supplements are best for me at that time of season. Everything is very specific and they do a lot of batch tested products which gives me confidence. They have been brilliant with me for the last three years.
ML: What are your goals and ambitions going forward?
JB: Ultimately I think that any player’s goal should be to represent his country at the highest level of competition. I had the honour of playing for the England Knights on six occasions, which I am really proud of, but I want to push for the full England team and represent them in a series next year. I know that there is a lot of work to do for me to get there and firstly I must concentrate of playing well for Huddersfield Giants and hopefully that will come off the back of it.
ML: Protein shake or milkshake?
JB: Protein shake. When I was younger it would have definitely been a chocolate Frijj milkshake but I have moved on since then!
ML: Eat-in or eat-out?
JB: I love to eat out, but I fancy myself as a bit of a chef at home so when I have an idea and a bit of inspiration on what to cook then I go for it.
ML: Toughest player to go up against?
JB: There are a few tough players about but I would say James Graham. He plays in Australia now for the Canterbury Bulldogs but a few years back he played for St Helens and I have never come across a more naturally aggressive player than him. When I was running with the ball and he was stood in front of me I would try to deviate slightly away from him (laughs).
ML: Sporting hero?
JB: Growing up I was a massive fan of Jason Robinson, he was a Leeds lad who had outstanding careers in both league and union, and was an all-round role model for anybody growing up watching rugby.
ML: And finally, away from rugby what do you do to relax?
JB: I have recently bought a mountain bike so any spare time I get I am out and about in the woods doing MTB trails and falling off. Other than that I enjoy a coffee with friends and listening to music.
Jodie Broughton is a USN-sponsored athelete. To find out more about USN's product range click here.