Villie

On the brink of greatness: Sharksworld chats to Justin Downey


Written by (Villie)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks on 9 Feb 2009 at 10:00
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There is certainly no shortage of quality loose forwards in the Sharks ranks, with players of the calibre of Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes and Keegan Daniel around. However there is nothing better for the fans, than seeing a local boy coming through the ranks and making the breakthrough into the big time. There is that extra degree of pride when witnessing a home grown product representing the team he has grown up supporting.

One of the brightest prospects currently in the Sharks set-up is local talent, Justin Downey and as fans, we have high hopes that 2009 is the season where we see his development take a further step forward and that he gets a crack in the Sharks first team squad.  Downey has impressive physical attributes, standing 1.92m tall and weighing in at 105kg and is ideally built for the role of number 7 flanker.

I managed to catch up with Justin to try and get some inside information on the man and life at the Sharks….

Can you tell us a bit about your background, schools you attended, when you started playing rugby etc

I was born in Johannesburg but have lived in Durban virtually my entire life. Started playing junior rugby from the age of 9 and attended Northwood Boys High in Durban North.

Have you always been a loose forward / flanker?

I started out as a loose forward and played most of my school career there. Switched position to centre in Standard 9 and played centre for Northwood first XV in STD 9 and Matric. After school I spent a season in Otago, New Zealand and reverted back to loose forward.

You attended the Mexted academy in New Zealand. Tell us how that came about, your experiences there, who else player wise was there at the time. Also who coached you and were there any significant coaching influences on your career?

Firstly I’d like to state that it was an absolute honour and privilege for me to attend the Mexted academy. I was privately sponsored by a close friend, Mr Chris Larsen to attend the academy and it has had a profound influence on my rugby philosophy. The whole mindset over there is different and so professional. The finest details of your game are examined and refined. I would recommend the whole experience to any rugby player who has the opportunity to attend.

Many of the guys that were there with me played in the Air New Zealand Cup and a few of them are now in the Super 14 squads for this year. I still keep in contact with a number of them. Our team at IRANZ was coached by Dave Rennie (NZ under 20 and Manawatu Turbos coach). In addition, each player was assigned a mentor. My mentor was the former Sharks legend and New Zealand great, Murray Mexted. Murray being a former loose forward was the ideal mentor for me and apart from being a fantastic man, he added so much to my development as a player. He taught me so many valuable lessons and there is simply no-one better that I could have had as a mentor. I still keep in touch with him and he continues to provide me with tips and advice.

Do you play any other sports? And if so at what level?

I play quite a bit of golf and currently play off a 10 handicap. Wednesday is our day off so that’s when all the Sharks guys usually play

It’s the middle of the season (all pre season work out of the way), what would a typical week for Justin Downey involve (training, gym time, relaxation etc)?

Assuming match day is the Saturday, my week would be along the lines of:

Monday and Tuesday we have early morning gym sessions followed by either a skills session or pilates. In between sessions, most of the guys either attend to business commitments or take it easy. Afternoons involve a review of the past weekends game and some field sessions. Wednesdays are our days off. Thursday is usually a light gym session in the morning, with a game related field session in the afternoon. This is where our strategy and moves are refined. Friday involves a 30 minute captains run in the afternoon, leaving us fresh and ready for the game the next day.

What do you enjoy doing to relax/ your major interests?

I enjoy fishing and as also try and play as much golf as I can.

Who is your closest buddy in the Sharks squad?

Rory Kockott is my closest buddy and has also had the most influence on me. Not just as a rugby player but as a very close friend too. I have learnt so much from him, with his positive outlook.

Have you ever considered playing abroad? Or have you ever been approached to play overseas?

Currently I am very happy at the Sharks and have no desire to move anywhere but equally would never close the door on other opportunities.

As you are still developing and trying to break into the Sharks senior side, not a lot of our readers would have seen you in action. How would you describe your style of play? Your main strengths and assets? And do you model your game on any player in particular?

I can’t say I model myself on any particular player but I do strive to be a complete all-round ball player and pick up little bits from a number of players. I would say that I’m a strong ball carrier and equally adept, on the ground, fetching the ball.

What are your short term goals /ambitions for the 2009 season?

It would be fantastic if I could get some game time in the Super 14 but if not I do hope to make an impression in the Currie Cup later in the year.

In the fans eyes, nothing beats a local boy coming through the ranks and making the big time. Did you grow up a Sharks fan? And if so, who were your heroes?

I’ve always been a fan and being involved with the Sharks is a dream come true. To play alongside guys like John Smit, Johan Muller and Stefan Terblanche is incredible and such a privilege.

Which players, both local and international, do you admire/enjoy watching?

Well as a loose forward, I have to say Richie McCaw. Simply awesome player.

All of us fans have an SA team that we dislike the most. Personally it’s the Stormers and I know for a lot of other Sharks fans, it’s the Bulls. Do you have a least favourite SA team?

I can’t really say that I have a least favourite. I’ve got a lot of respect for all the SA teams we play against. (Villie’s note: Very diplomatic Justin, excellent answer)

This one is for our large number of lady readers. Do you have a girlfriend? Where did you meet and how long have you been together? Did she like rugby before meeting you?

I do have a girlfriend, Simone. We met at school and have been together for 2 years now. She is a professional dancer, currently with the Cape Dance Company. I think she always enjoyed rugby but now is a huge fan.

Finally, I know a lot of the guys follow the English Premier League football? Are you into it? And who do you support?

I don’t follow it constantly but have a slight preference for Manchester United.

I would like to express my thanks to Justin for answering my questions and send him best wishes for the coming season. I’m sure we will all be keeping a keen eye out and hoping that he does manage to crack some game time.



52 Comments

  • Cool read thanks Villie.

    skills session or pilates :shock:

  • Comment 1, posted at 09.02.09 10:09:04 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
     
  • have heard a lot of SIR DOWNEY!!! :lol:
    but would love to see him in action!!!!!

  • Comment 2, posted at 09.02.09 10:13:03 by willa Reply
    willaVodacom Cup player
     
  • Nice one. Interesting read.

  • Comment 3, posted at 09.02.09 10:18:08 by billy Reply
    billyVodacom Cup player
     
  • @willa (Comment 2) : well – careful what you wish for, I reckon. A start for Justin at this stage will probably mean that either Wolla or Kanko is injured, which we don’t want.

  • Comment 4, posted at 09.02.09 10:26:29 by robdylan Reply
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  • we def do not want that!!!!!i just love that human wrecking ball!!!he is gonna struggle getting in there, maybe horses for courses will get him a bench spot somewhere???

  • Comment 5, posted at 09.02.09 10:36:45 by willa Reply

    willaVodacom Cup player
     
  • Great! Hope you’ll set the CC on fire…and all the best for the future Justin…we’ve heard a lot of good things… :smile:

  • Comment 6, posted at 09.02.09 10:38:03 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!Super Rugby player
     
  • @willa (Comment 5) : well – there’s merit to that argument.

    One could argue that it could come down to a straight shoot-out between Justin and Keegan for the number 19 jersey. Then again, the fact that Ruan’s versatility means you only really need two backs on the bench could well give Justin the nod in a 5-2 split. Keegan could always play centre if required.

    16 Carstens
    17 Jannie
    18 Big Al/Hargs
    19 JD
    20 Keegan
    21 Swannie
    22 Waylon/Jordaan

  • Comment 7, posted at 09.02.09 10:42:49 by robdylan Reply
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  • Shot Villie, Im a big fan of player interviews like this.

  • Comment 8, posted at 09.02.09 10:47:41 by PJLD Reply
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  • @PJLD (Comment 8) : brace yourself… we have more coming up

  • Comment 9, posted at 09.02.09 10:58:15 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 9) : Nice

  • Comment 10, posted at 09.02.09 11:03:01 by PJLD Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 7) :

    Ouch I hope not… take out JDP (perhaps Carstens)… that bench doesn’t inspire confidence at all…

  • Comment 11, posted at 09.02.09 11:05:52 by bryce_in_oz Reply

    bryce_in_ozCurrie Cup player
     
  • Ah Albertus… not AlHargs… yeah well maybe a bit better…

  • Comment 12, posted at 09.02.09 11:07:12 by bryce_in_oz Reply

    bryce_in_ozCurrie Cup player
     
  • I just got this letter via e-mail

    I couldn’t have put it better myself. :lol:

    Dear Mrs Guru

    It is with a profound sense of sadness that I am composing this letter. The last two and a half months have been a very special time and I have cherished every second that I got to spend with you. I think you are right when you say that a happy marriage is built on mutual trust because I really trust that this brief time has been as enriching for you as it has been for me. I will certainly miss our weekend shopping sprees, our romantic walks in the park and the time we spent dining out and visiting friends. Unfortunately, we both knew that this day would come and while I will certainly miss you, we both know that I can from this weekend onwards no longer provide you with the company and support that you have become accustomed to.

    I will obviously make every effort to keep in touch and I may even spare the time on occasion to exchange a few words between matches or halves but these should be seen as exceptions rather than the norm. I have prepared instructions on how to clean the swimming pool and most of the emergency numbers are written on the notepad alongside the telephone.

    I have enclosed a full match schedule which will at least give you some insight as to my mood swings and believe that the following basic rules will ensure that neither of us is unduly inconvenienced during this period:

    · I will watch the morning games (those played in Australia and New Zealand) either at work or at the local pub. You are therefore not required to supply me with breakfast on such days although I do suggest that you use this free time to ensure that a proper lunch or dinner is provided and that the beer stocks are replenished.

    · Afternoon and evening games will be viewed on my 50 inch HD screen and I therefore suggest that you consult the DSTV guide to ensure that you make the necessary arrangements to view Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty and whatever other rubbish you wish to watch elsewhere in the house. Please note that I will not only watch the live matches, but I will also record these on the PVR for later review and that I place an equal premium on Varsity Cup, Super 14 and International matches. I will also watch all rugby related programs such as Boots n All and Super Rugby and while I may make comments such as “Oh crap Darren!” that does not mean that I would rather be watching the Amazing Race or anything on BBC Prime.

    I urge you to familiarise yourself with the full match schedule because dinner times will need to be co-ordinated accordingly and while I am happy to braai on occasion this is conditional on you making the fire and ensuring that it is ready either immediately after or between games. I hope that you have added sufficient stocks of biltong to the weekly grocery list and expect you to ensure that these do not dwindle at any stage. I may on occasion elect to watch a game live and while you are welcome to attend please note that this is for your own account and will in no way absolve you from your other responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning and managing the bar stocks.

    Lastly, and I really do apologise for this, I have regrettably had to cancel this weekend’s final fling. I know that I promised you one last weekend together, but I completely overlooked the fact that not only does the Wellington Sevens take place but also the Six Nations. As the British and Irish Lions will be touring later this year the Six Nations is of extreme importance and I have therefore decided to use this weekend for a practice run as it has been almost 3 months since you were last a rugby supporters widow.

    I remain your ever-loving husband and look forward to resuming our happy union after the Autumn Tour in November.

    Yours faithfully

    Rugby Guru

  • Comment 13, posted at 09.02.09 11:07:48 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 13) : is that OUR rugby guru?

    New Sharks player profiles are up on sharksrugby

  • Comment 14, posted at 09.02.09 11:18:42 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 13) :
    :lol:
    COPY & PASTE…

  • Comment 15, posted at 09.02.09 11:29:44 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!Super Rugby player
     
  • @robdylan (Comment 14) : Not sure , I got it from a friend here in Newcastle. Probably been send around quite a bit .

  • Comment 16, posted at 09.02.09 11:31:57 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @blackshark (Comment 15) : ive already sent it

  • Comment 17, posted at 09.02.09 11:33:40 by willa Reply

    willaVodacom Cup player
     
  • @blackshark (Comment 15) : Now all I need is for some-one to translate that in Afrikaans , my wife has no problem with English, but in the right hands I think this could be a fantastic read in Afrikaans. How about getting Piet Pienaar to give us an Afrikaans version

  • Comment 18, posted at 09.02.09 11:34:24 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 18) : trust me – you do not want that!

  • Comment 19, posted at 09.02.09 11:41:38 by robdylan Reply
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  • @willa (Comment 17) : @blackshark (Comment 15) : I your haste to send it don’t forget to change the names :roll:

  • Comment 20, posted at 09.02.09 11:41:45 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 19) : :grin:

  • Comment 21, posted at 09.02.09 11:42:15 by Pokkel Reply
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  • I was thinking of asking TGHMEA to do an interview. :shock: :roll:

  • Comment 22, posted at 09.02.09 12:08:03 by wpw Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 18) : Leave it in English – if she gives you kak you can blame her poor translation :lol:

  • Comment 23, posted at 09.02.09 12:11:26 by Worcestershire Sauce Reply
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  • @wpw (Comment 22) : Well what about adding TGHMQD…the orginal legend

  • Comment 24, posted at 09.02.09 12:11:52 by Worcestershire Sauce Reply
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  • Murray Mexted was a Tjork?!?!?!?

  • Comment 25, posted at 09.02.09 12:18:40 by Worcestershire Sauce Reply
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  • @Worcestershire Sauce (Comment 24) :

    Not a bad idea there bud – only problem is I’ll have to pay him in papsakke and will therefore be forced to hand over to TGPDCS (The Great Papsak Drinker Clayton Saville) :twisted:

  • Comment 26, posted at 09.02.09 12:26:31 by wpw Reply
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  • @wpw (Comment 26) : Well at least the tone of the conversation in this place will go up :lol:

  • Comment 27, posted at 09.02.09 12:31:22 by Worcestershire Sauce Reply
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  • @Worcestershire Sauce (Comment 25) : damn right he was… you didn’t know that? :shock:

  • Comment 28, posted at 09.02.09 12:40:42 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 28) : No but it explains several things. :grin:

  • Comment 29, posted at 09.02.09 12:44:37 by Worcestershire Sauce Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 28) : I werent wys of that!

  • Comment 30, posted at 09.02.09 12:50:30 by PJLD Reply
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  • @Worcestershire Sauce (Comment 25) :
    Not really a Shark, but a full blooded Natal player.

  • Comment 31, posted at 09.02.09 12:50:43 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • If Im not confusing him with someone else, I think he was/is a doctor and used to work at Addington Hospital.

  • Comment 32, posted at 09.02.09 12:52:59 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • Well if Mexted did play for Natal then my opinion of him has just gone done, way down.

    Wasn’t that during your B section days??? :mrgreen: :twisted:

  • Comment 33, posted at 09.02.09 13:04:05 by wpw Reply
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  • @wpw (Comment 33) : keep talking, pal… your mouth is writing lots of cheques. Let’s hope your team can cash them on Saturday.

  • Comment 34, posted at 09.02.09 13:08:11 by robdylan Reply
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  • @wpw (Comment 33) : :lol:

  • Comment 35, posted at 09.02.09 13:08:15 by Worcestershire Sauce Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 34) :

    So it WAS during your B Section years… hehehe

    (waddles away) :oops:

  • Comment 36, posted at 09.02.09 13:11:50 by wpw Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 34) : More arrogance. When is it going to stop?

    :lol:

  • Comment 37, posted at 09.02.09 13:12:58 by Worcestershire Sauce Reply
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  • @Worcestershire Sauce (Comment 37) : Hopefully on Saturday after the Sharks win :wink:

  • Comment 38, posted at 09.02.09 13:50:54 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @PJLD (Comment 8) : No worries PJLD, I’m a big fan of them too. I particularly like the chats with the up and coming guys, players that aren’t yet household names.

    It’s always good to know a bit about the guys we have in the ranks that could possibly be next to make the big step up. I’ll try do more of these where possible. Justin is a top man, and was very enthusiastic in answering my questions.

    In terms of questions for the players, my favourites are understanding which guys are best buddies in the squad as well as (for players we don’t know that much about) getting them to describe their style and strengths etc. Then it’s always good to throw a few light-hearted questions in too!

  • Comment 39, posted at 09.02.09 14:12:18 by Villie Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 32) : I think you are talking about Mark Loane.

    WHAT a player. Probably the hardest guy I’ve seen on a rugby field. Sharks legend of note.

  • Comment 40, posted at 09.02.09 14:13:12 by Villie Reply
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  • @Worcestershire Sauce (Comment 37) : :mrgreen:

  • Comment 41, posted at 09.02.09 14:13:14 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Worcestershire Sauce (Comment 25) : Absolutely. Mexted was an awesome player. Listen to him when he commentates, he has a soft spot for the Sharks :wink:

  • Comment 42, posted at 09.02.09 14:14:33 by Villie Reply
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  • @Villie (Comment 39) : maybe we can get Justin to convince Rocket to give me the interview he owes me… still trying to track him down a year later :mrgreen:

  • Comment 43, posted at 09.02.09 14:22:14 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 43) : :lol: Maybe? But I can imagine Rocket being a very elusive chap!

    I want to speak to Deon Carstens. I know he’s an established player..but he’s SUCH a genuine and nice chap and funny too. I reckon an interview with him would be pure comedy!

  • Comment 44, posted at 09.02.09 14:35:08 by Villie Reply
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  • @Villie (Comment 44) : oh yeah – do it.

    We’ve got one with Swannie coming up tomorrow

  • Comment 45, posted at 09.02.09 14:56:10 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 7) : That could definitely be the way to go. Sharks have a lot of versatility in their backline.

    Swannie and Waylon have both shifted around the backline, not to mention Ruan and Frans Steyn.

    I would like the dual option of Justin and Keegan on the bench, because if we want to rest Wolla or if he gets injured then Justin as a replacement would keep the natural balance in the backrow. Keegan could cover for Botes and Kanko!

  • Comment 46, posted at 09.02.09 22:11:38 by Villie Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 45) : Ask Swannie about our trip on the bus from Durban to Bloem for the CC semi 2 years ago! Man that was a jol of note!! :lol: :lol:

  • Comment 47, posted at 09.02.09 22:12:22 by Villie Reply
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  • @Villie (Comment 47) : how did you end up on same bus?

  • Comment 48, posted at 09.02.09 22:36:28 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 48) : I went on the Supporters tour bus and a lot of the Sharks U19 and U21 players joined us on the trip. That is where I met him (Swannie), Thabo Mamojele and a whole host of the other younger guys.

  • Comment 49, posted at 09.02.09 23:55:34 by Villie Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 48) : At the after party in Bloem, one of the Sharks U21 players tried to chat up Philip Burger’s (Cheetahs wing) girlfriend!! :lol: He shall remain nameless!

  • Comment 50, posted at 09.02.09 23:56:34 by Villie Reply
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  • i have played rugby alongside justin and would like to say a very strong loose foward and line and tackel breaker. very strong with ball in hand. good on you justin .kelly sadal cromwell rugby footbal club central otago new zealand.

  • Comment 51, posted at 15.02.09 03:51:10 by sadal kelly Reply

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  • @sadal kelly (Comment 51) : Hi Kelly – thanks for the comment.

    Always great to hear straight from people who are still involved in the game. All the best…

  • Comment 52, posted at 15.02.09 05:41:33 by robdylan Reply
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