Rugby union: Waratahs veteran Paddy Ryan opens up about big dreams, life and elite sport

MAN OF THE MOMENT: Former Pirate Paddy Ryan will play his 100th Waratahs game on Saturday night.
MAN OF THE MOMENT: Former Pirate Paddy Ryan will play his 100th Waratahs game on Saturday night.

Tamworth-raised inspiration Paddy Ryan had a week to savour in the lead up to his 100 Waratahs match at the SCG on April 14. The big fella handed out match tickets to about 30 family and friends so they could celebrate the magic milestone up close and personal with him.

PADDY Ryan has recalled the moment he announced his intention to play for the Waratahs, putting in motion a chain of events that will crescendo again when he plays his 100th game for NSW at the SCG on Saturday night.

“I was sitting around the kitchen table [in Tamworth] with my mum and dad, and I was 10. I said I was gonna do it. And my dad said, ‘Mate, a lot of blokes are gonna want to do that. You’re gonna need something else as a backup’.

“And my mum said, ‘Nah, he’ll be right. He’ll be able to do it.’”

The Tamworth-born prop’s father, Nick, director of emergency medicine at Tamworth Hospital, and his mother, Maria, will be at the SCG on Saturday to watch their boy notch the milestone against Queensland. Ryan has given some 30 match tickets to family and friends, as he absorbs the build up to the clash with a real appreciation of his achievement.

“It’s not something you think about before it all happens,” he said. “But when it does [happen], it’s a great opportunity to kind of get a few people together that have had a good influence on my footballing life.”

Ryan made his Waratahs debut in round seven of the 2011 Super Rugby season. NSW played the Chiefs in Sydney.

He said the biggest difference between him back then and now was his physical transformation, as he lost weight and gained strength.

I don’t feel very old … I still feel like I’ve got a lot of footy to play.

The former Pirate also sandpapered his abrasiveness, recalling with a a chuckle his former more caustic self: “I was quite abrasive when I was younger. I was pretty full-on. I’m not quite like that all the time any more. You’ve still got to pick your moments [though].”

Another key personal development in shaping the player and the person he is today, someone who has three caps for Australia, was finding a better life balance. That was an especially hard lesson learned, he said, and one he would not forget. “That’s probably led to the most consistent performances I’ve had,” he added. 

Form slumps have brought him to his lowest ebb at the Waratahs – the 2014 title triumph the high point.

Against Queensland on Saturday, Ryan will again start from the bench, as the Waratahs search for their fifth win in seven matches this season. They trail the competition-leading Rebels by a point.

Waratahs halfback Nick Phipps has been named on the bench for the Reds clash, returning from an off-season calf injury. Ryan has known the Wallabies No.9 since they played colts together. “He’s a great player … There’s been no harder worker that I’ve played with,” Ryan said.

He said the “immense” form of winger Taqele Naiyaravoro, the “unbelievable” form of centre Kurtley Beale and Michael Hooper “growing into” the captaincy had been key factors in NSW’s good start to the season – a season the forward hoped would segue into a few more years for him.

“I don’t feel very old … I still feel like I’ve got a lot of footy to play,” he said.

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