Imported beef: Ellis makes the top grade
July 26, 2009
Gareth Ellis has brought his thunder Down Under but it hasn’t sparked the Wests Tigers into gear. He spoke with Josh Rakic.
Sun-Herald: Some critics suggested that, at age 27, you might have left your run too late to make it in the NRL when you joined Wests Tigers. How have you found the transition from the English Super League?
Gareth Ellis: I’ve really enjoyed it. I didn’t know what to expect when I came over here. I was confident I was going to do well, otherwise there’d be no point coming. The thing was how long it’d take me to settle in, on and off the field. But the club’s really helped me to do that. I live next door to Dene Halatau and Chris Heighington, and coach [Tim] Sheens lives in the building next door. We’d better be careful, he could be watching me now [laughs].
S-H: Do you feel you have anything left to prove?
GE: I feel pretty much at home now. I’m still getting used to how the Tigers play and training methods, but, all in all, I’m pretty happy with how the year’s gone. There was always going to be some doubt from people, because there hasn’t really been an Englishman other than Adrian Morley who’s come over and done well here for some time. I think that was justified, but hopefully I’ve proven I can match it in the NRL. I’d been playing all right at Leeds and won two competitions in the past two years. So to leave that and come over here was a big gamble, but I wanted to challenge myself. It was either re-sign with Leeds again or give [the NRL] a try. I would have been too old if I didn’t come over when I did. Thankfully, it’s worked out pretty well.
S-H: Todd Payten likens you to Adrian Morley - a gentleman off the field but a raging bull on it.
GE: I’m pretty laid-back off the field and quiet at times, but when I get on the field, it’s maybe my chance to let go a bit. I really enjoy the different part of the personality when I’m out there, but that’s what I’m there to do, and if I wasn’t like that, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.
S-H: The Tigers must beat the Raiders in Canberra today to stay in finals contention. Do you think the team can make the top eight?
GE: We have our chance, but it’s a difficult one. It’s a matter now of playing every game like it’s our grand final. The club’s obviously under-achieved since winning the comp in 2005, and it was definitely a pre-season goal. It’d be nice to get that monkey off our backs. But there hasn’t been too much talk about it since the start of the year.
S-H: The Tigers look to have found some form in recent weeks, and there are some big names set to come back.
GE: > <big>Keith Galloway is one or two weeks away</big>> , and he’ll be a great asset when he comes back. With him back and guys like Chris Heighington, it’ll give the boys a big boost - knowing they’re firing on all cylinders.
S-H: You missed a few weeks with a thumb injury. Any problems still?
GE: It still bothers me now and again when I get a bit of a whack on it or twists it a bit, but I think it’s just about there now. I think I’ll always have troubles with my thumbs. I broke my other one last year, and that still flares up now and again, so it’s just something I’ll have to manage for the rest of my career. I can still play golf though [laughs]. Maybe playing too many video games has triggered it [laughs].
S-H: The International Quad Series is on at the end of the year. What can you take from your NRL experience to benefit England?
GE: I think back home people have that illusion that the Australians are superhuman and way ahead of the field. But living over here and meeting so many Aussies on and off the field, you realise that people are just everyday blokes. I think the psychological thing for me has been broken - and I suppose I had to do that otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to play week in, week out. So I think that’s the big thing for England, the players getting their head around the fact that everyone’s beatable.