Retiring n sevens veteran Ed Jenkins has two goals for his post-rugby life.
The first is to convince his toddler daughter to throw him the footy every now and then – “I keep saying ‘you know I’m pretty good at this’ but she will only throw it to her mother” – and the second is to put sevens rugby on the map in once and for all.
“I don’t know if I should be saying this but I think it needs people up the top to take it seriously,” Jenkins said. “I think a lot of people don’t actually know what we do and how professional we are about what we do. I think they turn on the TV and see a big party in the stadiums … little do they know the work and hours we put in every week to be out there playing and being competitive.
“A lot of countries are pouring a lot of money into their programs now and we’re struggling to keep up with them. If we don’t take it seriously we’re never going to get results and that’s frustrating. Being in the sport for 10 years I thought it might have changed a bit after the Olympics. Maybe it’s just not happening as fast as I would like, but if I had it my way I’d change a few things.”
You might grant the former n captain the luxury of some constructive criticism given his decade of loyal service to sevens, not to mention the sudden nature of his retirement, less than two weeks out from the Sydney Sevens.
It was only last week that a second surgeon confirmed that Jenkins’ problem left shoulder had sustained enough tendon damage to not only end his professional career but also any hope of the odd exhibition match or friendly tour in future. It was only on Friday that Jenkins delivered the news to his team mates, a conversation he counts among his hardest.
“That was really challenging, I’ve played with a lot of those guys for a long time now and to have to tell them that I was retiring was challenging, probably one of the most challenging things I’ve done as a player,” he said.
“But I look back on my career and I’m happy with what I’ve achieved. I’m sad that I’ll never get to play again and put on the jersey again, and sad that [daughter Indiana] won’t really remember me being a footballer. If I’d been able to see it out for another two years she could have been four and watched me and remembered what her dad did. All that stuff is quite sad but you have to look at the great memories the game has given me and I’m happy with where I’ve finished up.”
Jenkins has compiled an impressive highlight reel, as the first and only n to notch 50 sevens caps in a 10-year career that spanned the game’s amateur days and its transition to professionalism. The 31-year-old captained the team for six seasons, amassed 547 points and 52 tournament appearances, including two world series cup wins, Commonwealth Games silver [Delhi 2010] and bronze [Glasgow 2014] medals and an Olympics campaign in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Had he had it his way, Jenkins would have rounded out a glittering career with a third Commonwealth Games campaign on the Gold Coast this year and a second Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. But the game will continue to benefit from Jenkins’ passion off the field, starting with the Sydney Sevens later this month.
“I’d love to try to change things for the better and improve things for the players,” he said. “If I can do something behind the scenes to try to get some more dollars into the program that would be great. People think we’ve got three days in to capitalise off sevens with the Sydney tournament but I think there are opportunities all around the world where we can be making a difference, which will filter down to the players and their contracts and make things a lot easier for the players coming through.”