Jenkins in line for another Aussie first

by Jill Scanlon

Ed Jenkins is the epitome of a rugby sevens player, the face of the Australian Men’s team since 2011 when he stepped to the fore as captain, and now he's on the verge of another Australian first.

His outing at the Hong Kong Sevens will be his 50th World Series cap, with Jenkins the first Australian Sevens player to reach that feat. 

From a young age, he mixed rugby and athletics - a combination which would prove invaluable for his future career in a sport that requires not only strength but good pace and endurance.

Growing up as a twin, the youngest in a family of five, Jenkins and his brother Jono were the more sporty members of the family and tested each other at every opportunity.

He admits his drive to succeed at rugby has been honed by his strong competitive streak – something the twins share.

“I think having an identical twin brother definitely helped because we were so competitive that neither of us wanted to lose,” he said.

Jono has also followed a rugby dream, taking his talent overseas, playing professionally in France for five years.

While the lifestyle his brother has settled into could be seen as attractive,  Ed's own focus has remained closer to home – especially once the Olympics became a part of the equation.

He joined the national sevens squad in 2008 when talk of professionalism and centralisation was more a notion than an expectation and the thought of Olympic inclusion was nothing more than a dream.

To most, Sevens is considered a young man’s sport and Jenkins himself initially thought he may miss the boat for Rio with 30 looming large.

“My body held together for the Olympics and I’m still quite fit – I’ve been lucky from that aspect – so I’ve achieved that goal,” he said.

After Rio, he chose to step aside from the captaincy role despite signing on for a further two years.


For 'EJ', as he is known in the rugby world, the next phase is about the future – the team’s future.

Jenkins has expressed his intention to help the younger players with their development, passing on his invaluable knowledge acquired over the past nine years.

While he has felt the disappointment of and eighth-place Olympics finish keenly, Jenkins believes the succession plan now in play was always the way to go and is looking to seamlessly pass the baton or more appropriately the ball, to the next generation of talent.

“It had always been the plan, stepping down from captaincy and it was definitely the right choice at that stage. We’ve got a lot of new faces coming through so I think Lewi being appointed captain has been a smart decision,” said Jenkins.

The Aussie Sevens team has had to confront some hurdles where leadership is concerned – but in the long-run it may have worked out for the best.

With the unfortunate long-term injury to Lewis Holland ruling him out for the 2016-17 World Series season, on-field leadership has been laid at the feet of big forward Sam Myers.

“It’s been challenging with him (Holland) out and now Sammy (Myers) coming through,” said Jenkins.

“Sam is going to have his own leadership style and the way he wants to do it, so sometimes the best approach is to just sit back and watch it unfold and inject my input if needed.”

Not only is Jenkins going through a major transition on the field, but also in his life off the field.

The birth of his daughter Indy has broadened the scope of his focus.

When travelling with the team his thoughts now turn to home, sometimes half a world away.

“It’s been challenging and I start weighing up whether it’s the right thing to be doing now. But at the same time, it is only going to be for a small number of years,” he said.

“I have to capitalise on this great opportunity, as hard as it is being away from my wife and young Indy.

 

Cruising into 2017 with this little one. 😃😃 #bringon2017

A post shared by Ed Jenkins (@edjenkins86) on


While culture is a strong ingredient within the program, the departure of a significant number of established players post-Rio has left a decent sized hole in the level of experience within the team; but it has also opened the door for a new era of talent to forge the path to the next big objective.

“The players that did decide to leave were a huge part of the team but (with) these new guys coming in, we have an opportunity to create our own legacy and our own path - it now gives us a great opportunity to create something new,” he said.

He is excited by what he is seeing on the training track and on the field.

“Their eagerness to learn; the ‘no fear’ factor shown by them – these guys are straight out of school and they’re going up against teams with very experienced guys. I’ve been really impressed by that.”

When not tackling anything connected to Rugby, EJ’s next sporting love is golf.

“I think everyone knows that for me relaxing entails a game of 18 holes around the golf course. I find it beneficial just to unwind from training.”

He confesses he never contemplated the option of a ‘day job’ as he refers to it, something which would involve an office, a desk and a strict timeframe.

He believes he chose the “easier” option but for those of us watching from the sidelines, easy is perhaps not the first word which comes to mind.

Jenkins admits to occasionally contemplating his ‘second life’ but he cannot imagine permanently losing his connection with the program.

“Because Sevens has been such a huge part of my life I couldn’t see myself not having some involvement in some way, shape or form,” he said.

“It’s been a huge decision for me to stay around for so long, (so) hopefully I’ll be able to make a transition into some role after I stop playing.”

“The more I can help the program develop and evolve to get these young guys coming through, hopefully the better I can leave it.”

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