CRAIG FARRELL’S COLUMN - Jamie keeps the faith

Craig Farrell
Craig Farrell
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With only Saturday’s Origin match and Monday evening’s West Yorkshire derby between Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Wildcats as the action from last weekend I thought I’d turn my attentions away from the field of play this week.

Sky Sports’ Super League Super Men is an in depth, informative insight into the lives of some of the Stobart Super League’s biggest stars, a sort of Parkinson with added brawn, fronted by former Great Britain international, Brian Carney.

Last week’s edition focussed on Leeds Rhinos’ second-row forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan and was a wonderful portrait of a unique individual and a much under-rated rugby player.

Jones-Buchanan came across as what many would consider to be an atypical rugby league player, he was eloquent and articulate, he demonstrated a thirst for knowledge and a desire to improve himself in all aspects of his life, and he openly, honestly and sincerely spoke about his faith in God, something which I have rarely come across in rugby league players.

To speak of one’s faith in the dressing room of a rugby league team is not common place, with perhaps the highest profile cases of believers within the game being Va’aiga Tuigamala and Jason Robinson at Wigan in the mid-1990s.

Like Robinson with Tuigamala, Jones-Buchanan found his faith as he sought to understand a teammate whom he found to be a serene and humble man, completely at peace with himself and the world around him. That team-mate was Ali Lauitiiti.

As an atheist I am fascinated by religion and faith, and to listen to Jones-Buchanan talk about his faith – he made a very clear distinction between the concepts of faith and religion, he did not consider himself to be religious – in such an open, non-zealous way I found to be compelling.

Jones-Buchanan himself was very aware of how his and others’ faith in God may be perceived, but it was this faith and his craving for knowledge that has led to his continual self-improvement and he is completely at ease with himself and his faith. To atheists like me, Jones-Buchanan was little more a “clever monkey” he quipped, before adding “but that’s ok.”

He was also entirely self-effacing about his contribution on the field to the most successful Leeds Rhinos team in history, dismissing himself as a mere “workhorse”. As I mentioned earlier I believe Jones-Buchanan to be an under-rated rugby player; perhaps his work rate is his most valuable asset but he also has a very strong offload game, rarely misses a tackle and is incredibly consistent, and it is for these reasons he has been one of the corner stones of the Rhinos’ five recent Super League Grand Final victories.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan came across as an intelligent, humble and witty man; he was a breath of fresh air throughout the programme and a genuine inspiration of whom the rugby league community can be exceptionally proud.

Another inspirational rugby league figure of whom we can be proud was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list last week. Matt King, the former London Broncos academy player, left paralysed from the neck down and unable to breathe unaided from an injury sustained during a match in 2004, just two weeks after his 17th birthday, received the honour for his charity work.

Matt’s fundraising has included painting Christmas cards with his mouth and much of the money he has raised has gone to Try Assist (formerly the Rugby League Benevolent Fund).

Despite his disabilities, Matt has gained a first-class honours degree in law and is now working as a trainee solicitor.

He said: “I am deeply humbled to have even been considered.

“I would like to thank my family and all those who have assisted me since my accident, particularly from the Rugby League community. The support I have received has made coming to terms with my injury, and my new life, a great deal easier, and for that I will always be thankful.”

Matt will also carry the Olympic torch, which passed through Scarborough on Monday, on its relay through Dunstable in Bedfordshire on July 9.