Alex Bradley lov­ing ‘no-stress rugby’

Hamilton Press - - OUT & ABOUT - AARON GOILE

The at­trac­tion of ‘‘no-stress rugby’’ and the de­sire to blow off the steam of a hard-work­ing week has Alex Bradley lov­ing his stint with Thames Val­ley in the Heart­land Cham­pi­onship.

The former Waikato cap­tain and one-sea­son Chiefs player re­tired from the pro­fes­sional ranks in 2013, but has re­turned to grass­roots footy this year with the Swamp Foxes.

While he ad­mits he’s a fair way off the phys­i­cal stan­dards of his pro­fes­sional days, and strug­gling with the fit­ness side of things, the fa­ther-of-four plumber is still churn­ing out solid 80-minute per­for­mances and catch­ing the eye with some rangy car­ries.

Hav­ing de­buted for Waikato in 2009, aged 27, and at 30 for the Chiefs, in their maiden ti­tle win­ning sea­son in 2012, Bradley then re­tired early the fol­low­ing year, for a num­ber of rea­sons - the de­sire to spend more time with fam­ily, his busi­ness part­ner hav­ing al­ready made plenty of sac­ri­fices for him, and his body need­ing a break.

He had just one sea­son away from rugby com­pletely then went back to turn­ing out for the United Mata­mata Sports club, this year when avail­able in be­tween coach­ing the club’s colts side.

Then came the ques­tion of link­ing up with Thames Val­ley, from coach Matthew Bartleet, who is a client of Bradley’s. The pair had been jok­ing with one another for some time about Bradley join­ing the Val­ley or Bartleet coach­ing at Mata­mata.

‘‘I just had a text from Matt, just ask­ing whether I wanted to have a run, and just jumped at it and thought I’d get into it, just an op­por­tu­nity to meet new boys and play some good rugby,’’ Bradley said.

While Bartleet quipped that his plumb­ing bills haven’t got cheaper, and per­haps will even be dearer with Bradley maybe a bit slower on the job now, he felt get- ting him in the mix would be quite a boon be­cause of his high­level ex­pe­ri­ence, which in­cludes be­ing a Ran­furly Shield-win­ning cap­tain.

‘‘He’s also a re­ally neat bloke who is able to pass on those learn­ings in a non-scary sort of a way,’’ Bartleet said. ‘‘Peo­ple still are happy to lis­ten and he’s cer­tainly very wary of how he puts things across and doesn’t want to step on toes or in­tim­i­date guys.’’ Bradley puts it this way: ‘‘I can’t shut my mouth, mate, I’m one of those jok­ers. They prob­a­bly get sick of me. Oh, hey, def­i­nitely try and pass on some of my ex­pe­ri­ence if I can, and if they’re will­ing to lis­ten and give it a shot, then all good.’’

Just be­ing back on the pad­dock and in the thick of it all is what Bradley thrives on. Dad to kids aged nine to 23 and a direc­tor of Plumb.Co, the week­end brings time for him to let the hair down a bit.

‘‘I’m lov­ing this. I miss it eh. It’s in my blood I think, you work hard all week and all you want to do is run into some bas­tard,’’ Bradley said.

‘‘It’s no-stress rugby eh. There’s no pres­sure, you just go out there and play your heart out, and play with a good bunch of guys and have fun do­ing it.

‘‘Just be­ing where I’ve been, there’s a lot of pres­sure at that higher level, and for me, com­ing into this squad, it’s just about go­ing out there and en­joy­ing my­self, that’s how I see it, per­son­ally.’’

A late bloomer him­self, Bradley’s mes­sage to oth­ers is that it shows if you’re play­ing good club rugby you can still make it up the grades.

Alex Bradley is de­lighted to be rip­ping in on the park again, turn­ing out for Thames Val­ley in this sea­son’s Heart­land Cham­pi­onship.

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