You’ve been in the system for a while, you know the coaches are keeping an eye on you, but you can’t quite crack the next step – gaining selection. What are your options? Do you stick around and keep reminding them that you’re there? Do you look for other opportunities elsewhere?
Michael Marnewick interviews Justin Downey for Discovery Sharksmart.
For former Northwood High and Durban-raised Justin Downey who has now played two matches for The Sharks, it hasn’t been a sudden rise to the top, but a long journey that has now found him where he wants to be, writes Michael Marnewick.
When the opportunities don’t seem to be coming your way, one of the toughest times in the career of a budding professional is the early stages when your dreams are not being realised quite the way you hoped for and your future not turning out the way you had mapped it.
“It’s all coming together for me,” he admits. “It’s not a quick thing, it’s been a long process because I was in the Currie Cup squad last year and I got the opportunity to go on tour for the Super 14 this year so it’s been a bit of a process and I’m just learning as much as possible. But it’s all working out.”
He made his senior debut against Western Province, having played at age group and Vodacom Cup level for the province and now offers his advice on what it takes? He acknowledges that it can be quite frustrating as a youngster when the opportunities don’t quite work out for a player on the fringes of selection and ear-marked for higher honours.
“Mindset plays a big role,” he admits. “Some players get pulled into the system early and make their debut almost immediately while for some others, it isn’t quite so quick. You just need to stick with the system, be there, always go to training and yes, it can be tough when you’re not picked to play, but that long process and learning curve pays off in the end.”
He points out that probably the biggest application beside rugby ability is having a positive attitude – even when things are not all working for you. “That’s a big thing; it pays off in the end because if you’re patient, keep working hard, keep learning, and learning from the guys in that position, it definitely pays off and stands you in good stead. When your time does come, you’re prepared for it.”
On the flip-side of a fringe player not getting the opportunities can come the disillusionment with the system, that things are not going to plan and a big next step might be to look for greener pastures.
“That’s something that has never crossed my mind,” he admits. “Perhaps for other guys, but not me, my goal has always been to make The Sharks team, to play for The Sharks. Because I grew up in Durban and The Sharks is my team, the thought of packing up and looking for other opportunities has never entered my mind, that attitude has made me work harder.”
He has seen team-mates at a junior level stick with him while others have decided to see what other opportunities exist outside of the province and admits that each to his own – he certainly doesn’t condemn anyone for looking elsewhere – but that’s not for him.
“You can never close any doors, if things aren’t happening for you, if your career is not going the way you dreamed it would, perhaps you do need to consider other options.
“However, for me, my goal is all coming together, I’ve never thought about playing anywhere else, this is where I want to be.”Tweet