- His background and how he got his start in rugby
- The influencers he has had during his career
- his approach to goals and goal setting
- The mindset when realising that a career as a professional rugby player is possible
- The sacrifices you have to make to be a professional athlete
- The stress when your an up and coming player working with senior athletes
- Advice for young athletes looking to pursue a career as a professional rugby player
Sporple– Matt you’re best known as a rugby player, tell us a little bit about you’re sporting background, what sports did you play growing up?
Matt Giteau– As a kid I think my parents had a big focus on all their kids playing some kind of sport, for me athletics started from 6 till I was 15, cricket, rugby league was a big one, I played a little bit of AFL, soccer occasionally cause my best mate played it so I would fill in now and then and rugby union.
Sporple – Your father played rugby league at a reasonable level, has his efforts influenced you throughout your career?
Matt Giteau– I think just getting us involved in sport early has made not only me but all my family quite competitive. It’s not so much what my father has said or done, it’s just being around him from an early age, he did play rugby league so I always had a football in my hand. I was always around these guys, I would go to his trainings after school because they trained late at night, so it was just an environment I enjoyed being around, having fun, they had a common goal, you’re working towards something and that was something that I enjoyed.
Sporple– When growing up how did you approach your goal setting to make sure you achieved the incremental steps?
Matt Giteau – Oh when I was young I just played for fun, there was no real goal setting for me i’d just play each week, so on a Saturday I would be playing more rugby union because it was enforced on me at school and then on Sunday I would play rugby league. I really enjoyed playing sport so there was no goal setting for me it was just going out there to have fun. For my parents I think it was important for me to give everything, like after a game they know if I didn’t try, though they weren’t one of those pushy parents, but they also didn’t want me to be someone that just cruised through and not give 100% at everything I did whether it was schooling or sport.
Sporple – When you realized you were going to make a career out of rugby did that change your mind set and if so what do you look for in terms of being recruited to the Brumbies and what attracted you to them?
Matt Giteau – Think when you’re young playing a sport you feel “oh yeah being a sportsman would be something I would be interested in” you know, it would be easy to do and for me it turned out – I was really really fortunate. I was picked for the Australian sevens out of nowhere through one training camp by Eddie Jones who was the national coach of the Wallabies at the time and I had nothing to do with any province, any super rugby, any under 21’s, any under 19 it was just Australian sevens. Eddie Jones came to one of our training sessions and luckily for me he liked the way I trained, I’m not sure what I did but there was something there that he liked and at the end of that season he picked me for the Wallabies. So it was before I had a chance to think about Brumbies before I had the chance to think about anything you know I was involved as a wallaby at the end of season 2 so my case is a pretty special one where I didn’t have the opportunity to think about if this is something that I want to do, but then as soon as I got picked from there on it was obviously something I focused on and wanted to be a part of.
Sporple – After coming back and playing for the Brumbies how did you approach the difference of playing with your mates in the park to deciding that this is a career that you’re actually wanting to fulfill and go on with?
Matt Giteau – I think the biggest thing for me was sacrifices at the time, you know – playing with your mates is good, it’s great fun and you get your enjoyment but like you say you’re not going to be able to make a career out of it because of… I suppose the choices you make as far as partying, your birthday parties, I missed a lot of… like my 21st birthday party was spent in a Wallaby camp where I had to train that morning. That night I had one beer with the national coach and then fitness training in the morning, so there are little sacrifices that. You’ve got to decide you want, if you really want something you’ve got to work for it. It’s not going to be easy and for me that was probably the biggest thing, I had to sacrifice a lot of fun with my friends to be able to make it.
Sporple – When you’re a Wallaby and you’re out playing at the top level, what surprised about the game in terms of the way it was played, where it was picked up, or certain experiences that especially as a young guy caught you off guard.
Matt Giteau – That’s a tough one for me because when I came in I didn’t know anyone, I had no background. I came straight from club rugby to the Wallabies and everything was huge for me. Getting in a flight and sitting in business class, like little things were massive for me. The biggest thing for me was probably being able to prepare not only for a game but being prepared for training, so if you learn something on a Monday then you know, or if they teach you something on a Monday like a movement or something by Tuesday, the next training session, you should know it straight away and if you didn’t the senior players would come down on me, so that was a big learning curve. How to prepare for a game I learned through the senior players, I was very fortunate to have some really big names around when I first came into the Wallabies
Sporple – That was my next question, who was an influence on you as a player or a coach? A lot of young guys pick up from a father or a coach, someone who along the line has an ongoing influence on them. Did you have that figure in your career?
Matt Giteau – Yeah I think everyone, my family like they obviously play a huge part but besides my family as far as players, very early on senior players like Stephen Larkham was one who, although he’s such a nice genuine guy he was quite hard on me at the time. George Gregan was incredibly hard on me to get the best out of me so you know they made sure that I prepared well for training that I knew my movements if I missed a tackle, even if another player missed a tackle it was much bigger for me to miss a tackle because I was coming through. They taught me to respect the values of the group and also to know my role within that team and to perform the best I can and if I let them down, or if I let myself down I’ll let them down, and that was just something for me that I really took on board. I wanted to play well and the better I played the better you can serve your team mates.
Sporple – As a professional athlete, some athletes have agents some don’t, what do you look for in an agent, what experience did you have, good or bad and what could you to pass on to other guys or girls that might be looking to engage someone ?
Matt Giteau – I’ve had a shocking experience with an agent so… it’s very tough for me. I think people are coming out of nowhere that you never heard anything about. You need to be careful. The biggest thing is to do proper research, to ask players that probably were looked after by a certain agent or agency before and they are not anymore, then why? I find that if you ask a player that is currently recruited by that agent he’s generally going to be reasonably happy or he’s not going to say anything too bad. I think you have to do your due diligence, do research on the agent – for me looking back on it, I could have gotten by with just my father helping me out, the agency wasn’t something I desperately needed or craved but to come overseas, I had no background or history, I didn’t know too many people over here and an agency was something that I did need to get me the opportunity in France.
Sporple – You had a different experience with different sponsors and you’ve got some long term relationships, how do you find working with a sponsor is part of being a professional athlete?
Matt Giteau – It’s certainly a luxury for a player, if you’re able to get a sponsor through doing that you love then you are very fortunate and I think if you can build long serving relationship. I’ve been quite fortunate to have ADIDAS for a long time and they’ve looked after me and not just me but my family quite well so for me it’s important to represent that brand well, to establish that strong relationship and hopefully continue that into the future
Sporple – What advice do you give a young player when they are going through school, or they are just finishing school and they are looking to join a club – this is not necessarily at a professional level, but what they should look for in a club or coach to overall make the right decisions.
Matt Giteau – There’s a few things that you can look at, if you’re a young player you need to look for a club that isn’t glittered with stars and they are actually seeking the position that you’re after – that’s if you’re desperate to play. If you’re desperate to learn then you look for a club that has that experience, they can pass certain things on to you where you can buy your time a little bit before you get an opportunity and just serve your apprenticeship as far as learning as much as you can. I think the culture is also another big one if you can find a club with a good culture as far as the they stick by their players they represent their players quite well, they are loyal, you look at players that have stayed at the club for a long period of time and often you will find a good culture within that club.
Sporple – In terms of the Sporple platform, what are key things you think young players need to represent themselves online, whether that is footage etc…in order to give themselves the best opportunity?
Matt Giteau – Well I think footage obviously is one, if a club is looking for a player they want to be able to see what they are going to buy or that they are going to invest in. I think for me if I was looking for a player, someone with strong family values is someone that you know would be quite loyal as a person, someone that has a history of staying with a club for a long period of time or someone that does like to invest his time into a club that would obviously benefit that club also.
Sporple – One piece of advice you would give yourself if you were 13.
Matt Giteau – Thirteen… [smiles] wow!!
Sporple – You’re a 13 year old Matt Giteau knowing what’s in front but them seeing obviously what you have achieved now, in order to make sure that happened what would you say to yourself.
Matt Giteau – For me I would be very thankful for what my parents did in that I’ve had the opportunity to play rugby as long as I have and where I’ve traveled to. I think the fact that my parents put me into a private school early because I was miss behaving and at this private school they made me play rugby union which was a sport I hated, and then from there I learned to love the game and that took me all over the world.
Do you know any young players that would benifet from Matt’s advice? Please share this with them!