By STEVE MASCORD
BE honest. No doubt you’ve read hundreds or even thousands of “interesting” things in these pages over the years, but what has a footballer ever said that helped you with your life?
I’m talking about piece of wisdom you go back to again and again, like something a parent or grandparent told you once as a child. For some reason, these pieces of gold seem more likely to come from actors or musicians than from professional athletes.
Actually, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Actors spend their lives contemplating and impersonating the lives of others and musicians are paid to draw us a picture of emotions, experiences and thoughts and give us a new way of looking at things.
The fellas you read about here are paid to run at brick walls.
There is one piece of advice from a footballer that this writer has always gone back to which has been an enormous help. The biggest thing that can hold you back in electronic media is fear of the microphone, knowing that thousands are listening/watching and judging you.
Brad Fittler – in reference to a few of his own indiscretions as a young footballer – once said to me “you know, it’s 15 seconds in someone else’s life”. That is, if you stuff up, strangers will think about it for 15 seconds and then move onto something else.
And so to Nate Myles. The Gold Coast, Queensland and Australian forward is an intelligent, friendly bloke who at least gives the impression of being relaxed around the media.
But in the background, it’s suggested he is still a little gun shy, given than in any in-depth interview he will be asked about breaking drinking ban with Todd Carney, leading to his departure from the Sydney Roosters in 2011, and defecating (I’m only going to say that once) in a hallway at the Terrigal in 2009.
However, any well-intentioned suggestion that this story focus solely on the present and future misses the point: Nate Myles has been through enough to actually offer a perspective that can help you and me in our own little struggles.
And he’s willing to offer that perspective.
“I guess there’s a few players at the moment who you have to shake and say ‘why aren’t you realising? This is not doing the right thing’,” says Myles, the reigning State Of Origin Player of the Year, about halfway through our chat at the Canberra Crowne Plaza. (Hello, Josh Dugan and Dave Taylor).
“I don’t know how to make the penny drop for that person. It just happens, I think, sometimes.
“For a while there, I wasn’t learning from my mistakes but now I know I am.
“For sure, I think I’ve benefited from a few wayward moments, to put it a nice way.”
His advice to you and me when we find ourselves losing control a little? “Just surround yourself with good people.”
“It also helps when the person at fault, the penny drops and they realise.”
We’re not finished doing our amateur life-coaching just yet. But let’s just do a quick whip through the lifeand times of Cairns-raised Nate Myles, as this is supposed to be a mini-biography.
He joined the Bulldogs from Cairns in 2005. “I thought the world was going to end when I left Cairns,” he recalls. “I’d never been out of it.”
His stocks as a footballer rose, playing for Queensland in ’06, and moved to Sydney Roosters the following year.
“It (tenure at the Roosters) was at times unbelievable and at times I questioned it. The move – because of my age … I didn’t approach it the way I should have. I was very sheltered at the Bulldogs. I only had to come on and play 15, 20 minutes whenever big Willie and Mark O’Meley were tired.
“When I went over there, I didn’t take it on and do it the way I should have. I had a bit of responsibility there and I didn’t adjust to it. I didn’t play good footy when I first went there.”
The stay at the Roosters involved a controversial game in which the tricolours surrendered a big lead over North Queensland in a match which had been subject to a betting plunge. It was captain Craig Fitzgibbon’s final match before joining Hull.
Nate says now: “That game was tossed up in more articles than any game I’ve ever been involved in. I don’t know what happened in that game. I know someone tried to tag me with a doubtful comment once. I was there. I remember being part of it. I remember trying my (backside) out in that game. I topped the tackle count and the hit-up count for that game. It was a fucking hard one. And I think the harder we tried, the worse it got. That’s what it felt like for me. “
Myles refers to his early departure from Sydney Roosters, at the end of 2011, as “the tap on the shoulder”.
“We broke a curfew and it was probably just a build-up of a few things,” he recalls. “At the time, things were all over the shop and I wasn’t really sure what was going on. It was probably my attitude, 100 per cent. The way I was thinking about it: probably (it would be) a slap on the wrist and I was playing next week. But it was a slap on the wrist but ‘you’ve got another year to go but you can look elsewhere. Like I said, the blessing in disguise. I’m just 100 per cent glad that I’m at the Gold Coast now.”
Did he have the realistic option of staying at Bondi? “I think it would have been an option in Newtown’s favour. To go into work to a place where you’re not … to put your body on the line for a place where they said you can look elsewhere, you’ve pretty much got to take your medicine.
“The Roosters were fantastic, they stuck by me in a lot of hard times.“
Amid the financial headaches and poor performance of the Titans last yearl, Myles shone at Origin level, winning the Wally Lewis Medal. “The week and a half leading into Origin, I float the whole time I’m there,” he enthuses.
Now back to What You Can Learn From Nate Myles.
Another expression: what people say about me and what people think about me is none of my business. “You’ve got to learn to deal with it,” Myles says. “Everyone’s a critic these days, mate – especially the people who pay their money for the tickets to go to games.
“There’s a time and a place for everything. Say if I’m with my nephew or niece or wife, I don’t appreciate some of the things that are said. If I’m by myself, it’s like ‘wow’. It doesn’t really affect me too much. It’s just when family and close friends get to hear it. A lot of my friends are the ones who have to settle down the most. They’re quite happy to throw down (comments).
“Where-ever the article is – back, front, middle – people do read it. You’ve just got to make it like water off a ducks back – because if you listen to everything people say, you’re going to be a sad sack for a long time.”
Before the Townsville Test last year, Myles said he had learning to prioritise was a key element in burying his demons. When I ask him to explain it, he uses an expression with which I think anyone with a wild side can identify.
“I’m letting good times come to me, rather than chasing them, if that’s the way to put it,” he says. Part of “the penny dropping” is learning about karma. If you do the right thing by your own set of values, the universe has a habit of rewarding you.
He continues: “I just think I was chasing too many other things in my head, before. I’m just enjoying football a lot more now. I realise how lucky I am to be able to do it for a living and I’m definitely prioritising things.
“I’m probably not always chasing a good time. I’m enjoying myself, and I’m enjoying myself not doing the things that get you in trouble.
“I’m always a believer that things happen for a reason and I’m just blessed that I’m able to go up there (to the Gold Coast). It’s shone a new light for me. It’s a great place, eh?
“I think the tap on the shoulder, the transition up there, the stage I was going through at that time in my life … I think it was all pretty important, all had a role in where I am now.”
Nate doesn’t think anyone would want to read a biography about him. I think he’s wrong. But just one more thing. If he does eventually pen one, what will he write about Terrigal?
“You live and you learn. That’s all I’ll write.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK