Rugby League player for Wigan and Great Britain, including 1995 World Cup. Rugby Union for Sale Sharks, England and British Lions.
Three minutes into my first game for the British Lions (against Australia) I received the ball in a one against one situation. I was able to beat the Australian wing and score.
A player called Va’aiga Tuigamala (Inga) joined my club, Wigan. As I watched him it was obvious that he had something I did not have, something that I wanted. He played the same game as me, but didn’t need all the going out and drinking that I did. He was at peace with himself. He was the happiest man in the place. I talked to him about it and he explained his faith. I became a Christian.
Before that, my only experience of church was the occasional visit to Sunday School. I went just because you got a free lollypop for going.
I was extremely successful at my job. I was financially secure. I had everything materially that I could want, but I had relationship problems. Although the world was at my feet, surely and certainly it was crumbling. I was having great success on the park, but off it my problems were overpowering me.
I am leading a better and more fulfilled life than I ever lived. I have been a better father, a better husband, and 100 times better morally than I was before.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). That is what happened to me when I became a Christian. I felt a great burden lifted. I just felt that the Lord eased the pressure.
For four years I had been one of the boys, going out with the lads, bragging about how much beer you could drink, how many girls you had had, the kind of car you had, and so on. And then suddenly I turned round and said, “I am a Christian.”
I’m sure they were thinking, “Yeah, yeah, we’ll give you a week!”
But I was determined to prove them wrong. It was amusing to hear what some of the players had said about me and in a way it strengthened me and maybe made me more determined to prove them wrong. Now that I have been a Christian for eight years, they have to take me seriously.
In 1998, the Challenge Cup final was between Wigan Warriors and Sheffield Eagles. Everyone expected us to win. People were saying beforehand we could give Sheffield a 30-point start and still beat them. In fact, shortly after the final, we beat them 36-6 in the League. But on the day, Sheffield produced a display that they would probably never be able to do again. It was great for Sheffield and great for Rugby League, but it was probably my worst moment in rugby.
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Do faith and sport mix? Which side is God on? Can praying help win a race, get a hole in one or score in a penalty shoot-out? In these pages we interview sporting heroes who have some of the answers.
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