Andrew Heffernan: Pathways, Goals, Legacy.
I'm relatively new to Rugby League. Growing up heavily involved in Rugby Union, I only started following League in 2014.
One thing I have noticed in League more than union is the gap in skill and development between English players and players from Oceania (mostly Australia, Fiji and New Zealand). The likes of Ben Barba, Sonny Bill Williams, Billy Slater... These are players with seemingly supernatural qualities. Qualities which have been developed and nurtured in the Southern Hemisphere.
To help me understand the reasoning behind this, I recently caught up with Andrew Heffernan, 23, from Wagga Wagga, New South Wales Australia. Heffernan signed for Hull Kingston Rovers in 2017 from Penrith Panthers, scoring 18 tries in his first 24 games!
Watching Heffernan play it was obvious he possessed the easy-on-the -eye aptitude and flair you usually find with players from the NRL. And like most players who come across from the Southern Hemisphere Heffernan is also very competent in a number of positions, filling-in at Full-back, Centre and 5/8 for Sheens.
Here's what Andrew had to say about his grassroots story and the pathways put in place:
1. When and why did you get into Rugby?
" I played football, but all of my mates at school played Rugby League, I was 7 years old. My family supported me a lot during my development. My best memory growing up were the days playing the age above (under 8's), because my friends were that age"
2. What do you think creates the skill gap between players from Oceania and players from Europe?
" In regards to players from Oceania, the skill and flair I think comes due to the exposure to elite training from a young age. While the English game is making strides, the investment in young players in Australia both on and off the field far out weighs. I signed at 15 years old and was continuously monitored and developed professional training habits from then on.
"I worry about the squad numbers 18 to 40 who don’t play each week in Super League. I had the option to play other sports from a young age. But the pathway in rugby league was clear and exciting for a young kid who had loved the game from a young age.
When players come to the Super League it’s for a number of different reasons, it can be because they are at the end of their career but now we are seeing players who have suffered injuries or stuck in quality NRL squads so the opportunity to come and play regularly at a high level is a draw card. You're still getting quality players who are often still in the top 30 players in any NRL squad, but for some reason they have made their way to Super League".
3. Any updates on your injury?
" In regards to the injury the focus has been on getting myself back to full health before looking at when to return to play. I am working hard at my rehabilitation but it is a slow and delicate process".
4. After a fantastic first year playing in England, what is your long term goal?
" My long term goal has always been to get to the highest level, be proud of my achievements, and leave a legacy which myself and family are proud of. I base my decisions around goals and opportunities that present themselves off the back of hard work and dedication to being successful in anything I do"
Thanks for taking the time out to speak to GRM Andrew! All the best with your recovery!
Written by Shawn Boatin