Zero Rucks Given: Jerry Flannery on Johnny Sexton’s book and his team-mates attempts at literature
Johnny Sexton’s book just might be that rarest of things for Fla, one he might actually read…
It was interesting this weekend to see not just what Johnny Sexton had to say about contract negotiations with the IRFU, Rog and the Lions, but that he had written a book at all. It’s fairly common knowledge that he’s probably not stuck for a few quid right now.
Writing a book before you retire is a tricky business. The general rule is keep your mouth shut. Even what I’m doing now, writing a blog, being cool and funny, you’re always walking a fine line. You have an inside knowledge, that is why people want to read it, but you also don’t want to betray your team-mates' trust. It’s all good having a bit of a slag but there is a line.
And that’s probably the main thing with these books; unless the player is a prick or has no mates the books aren’t going to dish too much dirt on anyone. Johnny is a real clued-in fella and I have to think that the reason he has written it is that he wants to get something off his chest. And he loves money. As do I, please keep visiting JOE.ie, thank you.
I suspect his motive is to tell his side of the story on the move to France. I’ve been asked to do books before, and I’ve considered it, but I don’t know if people really want to know the story of a tough young kid from Limerick city who, through hard work and perseverance, transformed his body into a human wrecking machine and trampled all before him on the rugby field. Johnny is a bit different, he was always a really hard worker and to see where he is now, and how he got there, should make an interesting story.
To see him make the move to France, and change the perspective here on players moving from IRFU central contracts, is massive. Jamie Heaslip or Sean O’Brien moving abroad is now much more realistic, all because of him.
So it should be one of the better rugby books, no doubt my mother will pick up a copy. My mother buys all the rugby books and tells me if I had been more like this guy or that guy how much better I’d have been.
Generally if a player you know writes a book you will know all the good stories and you will know the extra juicy bits that are left out of those stories for the book too.
Now that was a book...
So for players, or “playas” as some of us are known, we’re not going to get massive insights from these books. But some other styles of book do have the odd nugget for us. When Munster won the Heineken Cup on 2006, Alan English, the editor of the Limerick Leader, wrote a book where he spoke to most of the team about that season and how it went.
So we had a get together to launch it where we all got a copy. I went up to my room in the hotel and I started leafing through it and there was a bit where it asked the lads about what was in their heads before the final.
I found it fascinating to read that David Wallace was so nervous the day of the game. I didn’t realise that at the time and lots of others lads were talking about what they were feeling at times you were there with them but you never copped their true emotions. I found that interesting and that can make a book a good read, if you really get into the head of a player in particular situations, like Johnny’s head space during the IRFU negotiations and making the decision to leave.
Maybe he has to get that across as there are still people out there who criticise his decision to move. I’ve had lads in pubs telling me that the real legends of the game in Ireland wouldn’t have left to play abroad. I know the word legend is overused but if anyone deserves it, it’s Johnny.
A three time Heineken Cup winner, starting 10 on a winning Lions tour, countless other trophies with Leinster and probably the best out-half in the northern hemisphere. If that guy hasn’t done enough for Irish rugby I don’t know who has. Other so-called legends never won a thing for anyone.
I wouldn’t begrudge Johnny one bit. It is a very good career, but a very short career and when you’re finished you have to have some options. If you have saved some money you have to make sure you’ve invested it well so that when you’re retired, then you have something to go into.
"Johnny had to work his bollocks off to get to where he is. I’ve massive respect for that"
From what we have seen from the book so far, it seems Johnny was very pissed off at how the IRFU handled his contract negotiations. Johnny is a very straight up guy. I’m sure if he felt they were straight up with him then there might have been a better chance of him sticking about. I was still surprised he left and the only worry I’d have would be if Racing are not quite as competitive as Leinster are. He’s a seriously driven fella so he’ll probably go a bit mental if the club and his fellow players don’t mirror his ambitions.
It’s always dodgy mentioning actual salary negotiation figures in a book as people can very easily become disillusioned with a player when they read him complaining that he’s not getting paid enough despite being on a gross multiple of the average industrial wage in the country. To put it in context though, the success which Leinster and Ireland enjoyed, with Johnny to the fore, has generated massive revenue for the powers that be and he earned every penny based on his performances on the field.
Johnny had to work his bollocks off to get to where he is. I’ve massive respect for that.
There’s certainly been an incredibly high standard out there already in relation to Irish rugby autobiographies. Literary crackers from Alan Quinlan, “I’m sorry for stamping/gouging/annoying everyone”, Donnacha O’Callaghan “Despite my public persona as an entertaining clown/prankster, I’m actually quite a serious bloke”, Bernard Jackman, “I’ve spent 80 per cent of my life concussed and my knees hurt”, Leo Cullen, “I have blue balls” and John Hayes, “Pay me my advance and fuck away from me”. All in all Johnny’s book sounds like one I’m really looking forward to reading.