Dec 04, 2015
Jamie George - a path to the top
Jamie George put pen paper to a multi-year contract extension with Saracens earlier today (Friday).
The 25-year old hooker has clocked up an impressive 136 appearances for the Men in Black since his debut against Northampton Saints in 2009.
It’s been quite the journey for George. As a member of the famed Class of 2008, that included Messrs Farrell, Fraser, Kruis and Wray, Jamie has been at the heart of Saracens changing of the guard in recent years.
His path to the top hasn’t been as clear cut as some other players, with George having to wrestle with Springbok hookers Schalk Brits and John Smit for game-time for the majority of his formative years at the club.
Undeterred, George has shown a maturity beyond his years to blossom in an England international and will skipper Saracens this weekend.
Here, Jamie talks to us about his pathway to the top.
Picking up the game
At Haileybury College where he lived. His Dad, Ian, was Director of Sport:“Everything was on your doorstep, you could literally play anything you wanted.”
“Whenever I think back to the coaching at school, the word ‘enthusiasm’ always comes up.
“The coaches were so keen on us learning the game, and were full of hope for our futures both as people and sports players. A lot of coaches get bogged down with tactics, but at Haileybury they just wanted us to get out there and start enjoying our sport, learning the simple techniques that would stand us in good stead whatever we did with the sport after school.
On joining Saracens
“I knew that Saracens – my local team, close to my heart – was the club for me. I never thought of going elsewhere, and in the end that paid off. In fact, the experience was beneficial, giving me a fresh influx of appetite and desire. Until then things had come easily to me, but this reminded me how much I need to be playing and pushing myself.
“I came out of school in 2009 and went straight into the Saracens team, getting a couple of years of Premiership rugby under my belt straight away.
“I have my best mates here. That’s something that is really means a lot to me. To have come through the Academy and play with guys like Owen (Farrell), Jackson (Wray), Will (Fraser) and George (Kruis), is really special thing for me.
“I think the first crop of Academy lads, when the changes at the club started was us. I’ve heard it called the class of 2008.
“Straight away, from when we joined in the Academy, the whole way through we created an environment where we all enjoyed coming in to work as hard as we could to get to the first team as quickly as we could.
“We’ve all got a lot of passion being at this club, and we’ve put a lot of hard work to be playing here.”
On the early days
“I definitely needed toughening up when I first came. I think I learned that pretty quickly. The front-row isn’t a nice place to be if you’re not up to it, you need to be tough.
“I’m still sort of learning the ropes a bit, but I definitely feel a better player for the experience. It’s helped that physically I’ve developed and a lot of credit must go to the Saracens Strength and Conditioning staff that we have here, who are amazing. They have got me in a lot better shape, and with the help of Andy Edwards in particular.
“Andy was with us in the Academy from the age of 14, and was a brilliant player, but unfortunately sustained a few injuries.
“He became our S&C coach when we were in the Academy and went on to become senior Strength and Conditioner when I began to play in the first team. He’s a very good friend, so to have seen our careers progress alongside each other has been fantastic.”
Competing with John Smit and Schalk Brits for the No2 jersey
“Everyone always said: ‘You’re going to play for England.’ And as a 19-20-year-old, everything came to me quite easily. My first reaction when Jon arrived was a negative one.
“But as soon as I met him I knew he was going to influence my career. There’s an aura about him. He is one of the most special blokes I’ve ever met. He developed me more than anyone, I think. For someone who’s achieved so much, to give so much of his time to me was truly humbling.”
“When Schalk first came I tried to be Schalk Brits. And that’s one thing I’m not. He’s one of the most talented blokes I’ve ever met in my life. Some of the stuff he can do I wouldn’t dream of.
“But Jon told me I needed an identity. When Jon came, I used to think I can be a bit more like Jon here and a bit more like Schalk there. And they’re quite different players. I extracted a lot from both of them, but I wouldn’t say I am a mix of both. I like to think I put my own spin on things.” – (speaking to Michael Aylwin in The Guardian, Nov 2015)
On his relationship with Schalk Brits
“Me and Schalk get on really well – we’ve known each other for six years, and he’s helped me along the way and contributed to player I’ve turned into – he’s a big part of why I am the player I am.
“There’s good relationship between us, we’re both aware of the rotation policy here at the club which helps provide healthy competition.
“When I was called up into the England squad for the World Cup he was one of the first people to contact me to say ‘congratulations’. It was great when he was included in the Bok squad, and I returned the favour by getting in touch.”
Life as a Saracen
“It’s an amazing place to play your rugby. I couldn’t really ask for anything better, as in my eyes I’m playing for the best club in the world. The way Saracens look after you, it’s the sort of place that you are happy to come to work every day.
“I was very enthusiastic when I first started at Saracens. Maybe I didn’t have the same knowledge or attention to detail that I’ve had to learn over the last few years to get where I am now.
“I was probably a bit too enthusiastic, and a bit too keen to be playing rugby, so I had to bide my time a little and be patient, and hopefully now it’s paying off.”
On signing a new deal with the Club
“I’ve loved every second I’ve spent at the club over these last six seasons, so I’m delighted to have extended my stay here.
“I really buy into what we are doing here at the club. Saracens have looked after me so well and I’m playing alongside my best mates, which means a huge amount to me.
“It’s such a special environment, and if you couple that with the brilliant coaching staff that we have here, you constantly feel like you are developing as a player and as a person every single day. I’m looking forward to being able to carry on with this incredible journey at Saracens.”
Jamie George speaks to Sarries TV