Alex Bradley loving ‘no-stress rugby’
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.