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In His Words: Jason Clark

Words: Jason Clark

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Rabbitohs forward Jason Clark told our Members last week about his career with the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the immense support he has from his family. 

Members received this content last week in our Member Zone

I grew up in the area. As a local kid everyone always asks “Oh did you do the march?” and I did do the march. It’s always been ‘Jason Clark – the junior kid that did the march with his Dad to get the Club back into the comp’ and I think people are over hearing that sort of stuff.

I grew up in Botany with two older sisters. I had a very supportive family. I love my football and I was very lucky that my Mum and Dad were so supportive. My Dad was my coach growing up with the Coogee Wombats. I started when I was four years old. I had a lot of mates that I played with and we won our first grand final in under 12s. We played at Redfern and after we won I remember Dad walking on the field and everyone running over and jumping on him. I loved it from there.

From there I started making the junior development teams. I made Harold Matthews in under 16s then SG Ball which is under 18s. I played two years of SG Ball and in my last year which would have been the end of 2007, I played a few Jersey Flegg games which is now the under 20s. Being a young kid growing up in that sort of arena of age group, I felt pretty chuffed.

The next year in 2008 the National Youth Competition started. It was a big deal because it was going to be mirroring first grade so it was a big step up from playing SG Ball. It went straight into 40 minute halves and included travelling. I was lucky enough to captain the Souths team in first year and that was also the 100thyear of NRL so that was a big deal as well.

Being a year younger, captaining the 20s was awesome. I remember going out, seeing my Dad at work and telling him. I was an apprentice carpenter while I was in the Toyota Cup, now Holden Cup. I would work from 7am-4pm and training from 4:30-8 most days. I think having that sort of standard was good for me to get a routine and learn to balance things. Now looking back I think ‘how did I do it?’ but it was just what I knew.

I played the second year as well. All up I played about 47 games so missed only about one or two games in the two years. Before my second last game of the year in 2009 I was at work digging up concrete with Reni Maitua’s brother, Lydan, and I got a call from Jason Taylor and he said “Mate, how do you feel about playing this week?” and I said “yeah, of course”. I think it was on a Wednesday and the game was on the Saturday so I was driving home and called Dad and called my girlfriend at the time, now wife, Lauren.

I only got to train with the team in the captain’s run because the 20s never trained with first grade so you were very separated. I didn’t really know much of first grade. I remember as a 20s kid, I used to always try and get in early to watch the first graders just walk out of Erskineville Oval. One of the main players I did know was John Sutton, from being two local blokes and Chris Sandow and Dave Tyrrell who had been in our 20s team. I ended up debuting at hooker which I had never played before and he had just thrown me in and it was just a simple job for me to do. We ended up winning against St George 41-6 which was a great debut game. The next week I was back in 20s.

My debut game was our last home game and we walked around the stadium after the game. There was a big group of Lebanese blokes who picked me up, it was a pretty big step up from the ground to where they were standing, and they picked me up over that and just gave me heaps of hugs. I didn’t know these blokes and I thought it was awesome. A year or two later I went into this Lebanese restaurant that my Dad has always gone into. He would go there once a month and bring home food from there as a treat when I was still living at home. When I went in there this bloke said: ”You’re Jason Clark.” They were the blokes that picked me up. Now he’s like family to us. We go there all the time.

I don’t know why I get emotional about it but I gave him one of my jerseys at the end of 2013 or 2015, one of those years, and he said he was going to get it framed and let me see it when it was done. They invited us around and we had a big feed with all the family. My Mum and one of my sisters came along with Lauren and one of our girls. All of his mates were there as well and he had the jersey there hanging up and it looked awesome. He asked if I noticed the difference. I kind of did so I asked what was wrong with it. I took a closer look at it. It was my debut jumper. He got it off my Dad and had it framed and then gave it back to me. It was a really special moment.

After Jason Taylor left I played two years under John Lang while he was the Head Coach in 2010 and 2011 and then Michael Maguire came in the end of 2011 and it was just a whole new ball game. He had a different style of coaching. When he first came to the Club everyone was asking who he was, where did he come from and what’s his background. We just heard he was a very hard coach but gets good results and obviously he has done that.

Up to now I have played 145 games for the one Club. I’ve got one more year on my contract and I don’t know if it will go longer. It’s a bit of an unknown at the moment where I will be after next year which is a hard situation to be in having a family to look after too. After next year I don’t know what I’ll be doing. Hopefully I can get a contract here but we will see what happens.

For as long as I’ve known, everyone always says that South Sydney train too hard and that’s why some players don’t come here but we won in 2014 so that’s not true. That was obviously a great year and when other players come in, it’s been really good to see the players just buy in and do what they are asked to do to fit in with the team.

A lot of the boys give it to me about rituals that I have before games or around game time. Like the way I pack my bag, I put everything out on my bed and make sure I’ve got everything before the game. Another ritual I have is my uncle rings me around lunchtime. He lives up in Queensland and he rings me just to wish me luck and always writes me a little note on Facebook. My Mum and my Dad also send me a message before the game.

I’ve seen a lot of change go through this Club and it’s been good. I was a local kid that would play on the weekend’s on a Sunday and stay in my Wombats outfit and go out to the games at Allianz Stadium and remember playing at half time of a Souths game and being one of the kids in the tunnel when the players ran out. I always try and make sure I hit the kids’ hands when I go through for that reason.

I have a lot of support from family and friends. Mum and Dad come to most of my games, they’ve actually surprisingly got different seats. My Mum sits down the front behind the opposition bench along with my sisters, mainly so I can hear her and the team can hear her. Dad sits at the back behind one of the posts and if it’s not at ANZ Stadium I can most of the time find him at any away games as well out of the crowd. I’ve always found a way to find him, it’s surprising but we just give a little nod or something to show we know each other are there and it’s always good to know I’ve got that support from Mum and Dad.