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Jared Waerea-Hargreaves – The Family Man

By Dan Hutton & Madeleine Gray on February 29, 2016 in People

Photo: Jeremy Greive

Photo: Jeremy Greive

Where you are originally from?
I was born in New Zealand in 1989, in Rotorua. I grew up in Rotorua until I was nine, when I moved to Brisbane with my mum to meet my father. I was going in a direction my mother thought was not the right one, and she thought that I needed a father figure in my life. My dad was living in Brisbane at that time, so we packed up and left. As a nine year-old I thought that Brisbane was just around the corner, so it was a bit of a shock when mum explained to me that we had to get on an airplane. We got on our flight and came over here and I grew up in Brisbane.

When you moved from New Zealand to Australia it must have been a culture shock; what was that like?
I guess it wasn’t much of a shock because I was so young. It just took a while for me to adapt to the youth here in Australia. I had a bit of an attitude back in New Zealand and I wasn’t accepted here for a while. It took me a while to adapt to that. Probably my hardest challenge was actually moving from Brisbane to Sydney on my own.

When did you move to Sydney?

When I was 17 I got an opportunity to play in some schoolboy rugby down here in Sydney. My dad sort of kicked me out of home – he said that it was an opportunity I might regret not taking later. I drove down here with six bags of clothing, not knowing where I was going to stay. I was bunked up at a hostel for a few months and then I started living with a mate, Martin Kennedy, who was at the Roosters at the time and living in Bondi Beach. A year later I signed with Manly. That move to Sydney was hard. I had to move away from my comfort zone: my family, my dad, and my mum. After those two years I was picked up by the Roosters and have been here ever since. This is home for me.

Over the years it has becomes clear that your mum, Karen, is one of your biggest supporters and influences; what have you have learnt from her?
Yeah, K-Dog; she is just such an independent, proud woman. She stands her ground and if she has an opinion she is not afraid to say it. I’ve learnt that from her. I think that’s why a lot of people say I’m so much like my mother. She was here for two weeks recently. I picked her up from the airport and I said, “It’s good to see you,” and she goes, “Yeah, it’s good to see you too, but where is my grandchild?” I’ve obviously realised that it’s not about me anymore. She’s taught me that family comes first.

You mentioned that your dad is the reason you moved to Australia; can you tell us a bit about how you built that relationship?
I remember meeting my father at the age of nine. I was a little bit shocked to have this man in my life now, but we grew this connection and we still have it to this day. He’s a Kiwi but he is living in Brisbane currently and has for most of his life. He worked for the United Nations as a water engineer, finding and purifying water. He’s pretty old school, so he taught me the importance of providing for my family.

Do your parents get on well?

They do, because obviously I’m the connection there, but when they are together it’s probably half an hour before they have a shouting match. They are both such strong people [laughs].

How did the transition to the Roosters come about?
It happened because of opportunity I guess. I was playing at Manly and I absolutely loved it, but I was behind a few players. I was just coming through the ranks and the opportunity at the Roosters came up and I wanted to play first grade. That was my dream. My ambition was to get on the field and play consistently, and the Roosters came forward and offered that opportunity. I’ve never looked back. It’s been seven years now.

Where are you living at the moment?
I’m living in Mosman. It’s like I’ve still got this little string attached to the Northern Beaches. I’ve been there since I first moved to Sydney, which was ten years ago. I’ve always been on that side and I’m comfortable there, but my partner and I have just had a baby, so to be closer to everything we are actually looking at coming over here to the Eastern Suburbs in the next month or so, so watch out. I like the idea of taking over Anthony Minichiello’s title of the ‘Lord of Bondi’.

How is it living in the north when most of your teammates are in the east?
I call them all my brothers, but I’m on the north side and they all live so close to each other and they do things together because it’s so easy and I get left out, just because I live 15 minutes away over on the stupid north side. They act like I live so far away, so I’m out of the loop.

Do you have any favourite local haunts around this Eastern Suburbs?
Everywhere really, I love food. There is one place down in Bondi that we go to maybe once or twice a week called Skinny Dip Café. I’ve been going there for years. Reuben the owner looks after all the boys. It’s a good vibe and really chilled. And Courtyard in Coogee is great too. Honestly, though, I just really love food so I’m game for everything. We are obviously very lucky to be in the area that we are. The Eastern Suburbs is just amazing.

What gets your goat about the Eastern Suburbs?
The traffic, I guess. It’s pretty intense, but then again that’s Sydney. I ride a motorbike and my partner drives a car, so I usually get wherever we’re going about fifty minutes before her.

How did you develop your skill and passion for rugby league?
I guess it’s just hard work. I never really had much skill to be honest with you. I still don’t. Growing up I was tallish, very skinny; I hadn’t developed into my body. Now I’ve been training full time since I was seventeen or eighteen, so every year I’ve put on two, three, four kilos. I’m still putting on the kilos; I can’t stop it. One off-season I got up to 135-kilograms. I was travelling with my partner in the US. Thanks America!

Apart from your obvious physical strength, what is it that you bring to the Roosters?
I’d like to say a little bit of experience. I guess I’ve found out everything the hard way. The position that I play is probably the most easy and the most hard. It’s physically the hardest position on the field, I believe. I’m not trying to talk myself up, but there’s not one game where you can just ease off. So I bring experience and a bit of confidence, to be honest with you. I know I’m a bit of a character sometimes. If the mood is a little bit dull I’ll spice it up a bit. I can tell when someone is having a down day, so I’ll just throw a bit of chilli in there or stitch someone up. I love it and I’ll do anything for the team.

Are you at all intimidated by any opposition players?
Not really. When I first started playing with and against guys who I had admired for years I guess I was just in awe of them, but now I don’t really focus on who I’m playing against, whether it’s a Kiwi player, a test player, or whatever. I think that’s where players can get into a bit of trouble. When you focus on one opponent, you forget about what’s best for the team and your team plan. I just go out there and play. I worry about myself, I worry about my own team and I worry about my role in the team. I find that that’s how I play my best footy.

Who is the toughest NRL player to play against?
Probably Michael Ennis. He verbally gives it to everyone. There is not one player that he doesn’t sledge, but these days there’s not really that much chitchat. Everyone is just doing what they need to do.

You tore your ACL in August last year and had to sit out the rest of the season; how did it feel having to sit on the sidelines for so long?
It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my whole career. It was disappointing, frustrating… it sucked. Obviously last year I was fairly confident and all of a sudden my footy just stopped. It took me two weeks to let it go and to realise I had to get the operation. We were going into the semi finals and that’s when I was like, “No, that’s me done for a long time.”

How is your knee going now?
Yeah, it’s getting there. I’ve now done straight line running, change of direction, contact and I’m ready to get back with the team. It’s been a lonely journey. I’m fortunate to have some great guys here at the club like my physio Adam Bentley. I ruptured my patella tendon, so it’s a 9 to 12 month injury, but obviously having the professional help we have here reduces the time, which is good for us. I’m scheduled in to start again this year some time around round five. If it’s not okay by round five then we’ll push it back. It’s just timing with the knees.

How are the Roosters looking for 2016?
We’re looking good. So far we are traveling really well. We’ve hit a couple of pebbles on the highway, but the culture of the club will be right. We’ve worked hard in the pre-season, and if we continue doing that I believe we’ll be there at the end.

You and your fiancé, Chelsea, had just had a baby girl, Zahli, at the time of your injury; did having a baby ease the pain and disappointment at all?
It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Having her just gave me another pillar to stand on, pretty much. For me that pillar has always been football, but now I have a reason to play football and that’s to support my family. Having Zahli put everything into perspective. I absolutely adore her. A lot of the guys in the team have babies now, so it’s like a little daddy care here.

What’s the cutest thing that Zahli does?
She said ‘dad’ yesterday. It was her first word. I looked at it last night about 50 times on my phone and it just doesn’t get old; it’s just amazing. I feel sorry for my partner. She does everything, she’s done all the hard yards, but Zahli still says dad first.

How many kids do you want?

Five. I just got Zahli’s name tattooed here [on my chest] and I’m going to continue on adding down. Everyone was like, “Man, that’s pretty small writing for you,” but I’ve got to leave room. I just told the boys this morning that I want to be that father who drives in a little mini-bus and goes and drops all the kids off at school.

You’ve been with Chelsea for eight years; how did you guys meet and what do you love about her?
I love everything about her. She is so supportive, so positive. She’s my rock, the mother of my child. She is just everything. If it wasn’t for her I would be unemployed. We met in 2007 through a mate of ours. I thought she was pretty hot and we just started hanging out and now eight years later we have a child and we are engaged and we are getting married at Hamilton Island at the end of this year. It’s very exciting.

Do you think that being with Chelsea has made you a better player?
Yeah, totally. She’s always the first person to criticise me, in a good way. She’s always there for me. I remember when I’d done my knee, as soon as I walked up the tunnel she was standing there. That just shows what type of woman she is. I am very lucky, very blessed. In a game sense I think she has just made me understand who I am and it’s given me self-confidence to get out there and really do it.

There was talk about you joining the Canberra Raiders back in 2014, but nothing eventuated; do you think of yourself as a Roosters player through and through now?
Yeah totally. I had an opportunity to go down south and I considered it. I had to consider it; we’ve only got so many years in our career to try and sort ourselves out. We found out the day before we went down to Canberra that we were having a baby and that obviously just changed everything. I didn’t want move away from our family. We’ve got so much support around us. There are 12 of us in the area, so why go if you’re happy?

Coming from New Zealand and then Brisbane, were you aware of the ancient rivalry between the Roosters and the Rabbitohs, and now that you’re a Rooster is that rivalry something that affects you?
I never knew anything until I actually got to the club. I never knew the history. But it grows and grows and I think it’s awesome. There are a lot of emotions in those games. It’s pretty much two teams on one turf and I just think it’s amazing how the media build it up and the fans get involved. We have no excuse not to get up for those games.

As a Kiwi, do you wish you could play State of Origin?
Yes I do. I think it’s definitely up there as one of the pinnacles of our game. Growing up in Queensland, it’s huge.

Was there a time when you had to choose between representing Australia or New Zealand?
Yes there was, and I chose New Zealand. New Zealand for me is my birth country. It’s where I’m from.

Do you have a couple of particularly close mates at the Roosters?
Yeah definitely. My roomy Jake Friend. I’ve roomed with him for going on five years. I’m very close with him. I’m also close with Dylan Napa, Sam Moa, Isaac Liu – the big boppers in the forward pack. We do the hard work together, so we’ve grown this bond with each other, I guess. And Shaun Kenny-Dowall too. That said, I’ve been here for so long now that everyone is like a brother to me.

Who is the biggest pest in the dressing sheds?
That would definitely have to go James Maloney. Even though he’s left he’s still a pest. In the dressing rooms now it would be Dylan Napa, the big ranga.

Are there any up-and-coming Roosters players that we should be looking out for?

Latrell Mitchell at full back, a young Indigenous kid, is one to watch. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and he just needs to believe in himself.

In your opinion, who is the best player in the NRL?
Jonathan Thurston by a mile. He’s the man.

Do you support any charities?
Yes I do. I was an ambassador for KidsXpress and I’m obviously heavily involved in the Steggles Charity Nest.

Do you have any advice for young players who want to make a career out of rugby league?
Believe in your dream. Anything is possible. Work hard on whatever you believe and you’ll fulfil whatever you want to do. Hard work, man; that’s where it’s at.

Do you have any role models in or out of the game?
My mum and dad. They are pretty cool.

What do you think you have to do to be a role model for others?
Hopefully just continue what I’m doing. I guess I’d like to be as positive as I can be towards the community and give back when I can.

In a perfect world, what does the future hold for Jared Waerea-Hargreaves?
Hopefully five kids, a healthy and happy family and a couple more premiership rings. Yeah, that’s it.