Leeds Rhinos: Simple life for Jamie Jones-Buchanan INTERVIEW

Jamie Jones-Buchanan is one of the stars of Leeds Rhinos and among rugby league fans he's a household name, but there's more to the second row prop forward than meets the eye, not least of which is that he keeps chickens and has designs on leading a simpler life.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan is tucking into a plate of salmon and scrambled eggs on toast in the cafe on Kirkstall Road where we agreed to meet.

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I've seen pictures of him modelling a colossal can't-miss-it-beard but when we eventually shake hands on the upper floor in Copperhead – formerly Fat Chops – the beard has given way to a set of 'mutton chop' sideburns, the like of which any self-respecting 18th Century army general would have been proud.

The 29-year-old father-of-three is happy to share the story of how he came to sport them.

"The team players had a bet in 2007 not to shave our facial hair but after a while some of them shaved but I decided to just keep growing it. When I went to see a production of Oliver and saw Bill Sykes's mutton chops I just thought they looked really good."

Jamie is a Leeds-born rugby league fanatic who was first introduced to the game as a child.

"I started playing rugby because my next door neighbours played it. There were two boys, both older than me and both played rugby for Stanningley. There was a big patch of grass outside our house on Hill Rise Grove in Bramley and that's where I learned to play.

"When I went to Bramley C of E School, I was already playing. A coach from Stanningley saw me and must have thought I was pretty good because he told me to bring my boots for their game the following Saturday. I was nine-years-old.

"I love anything where winning is involved. I'm very competitive. As a youngster, that's part of what defined me. I was good at sport and I think that became part of who I am. Whenever we picked for teams, the other kids always wanted me on their side."

Jamie signed for Leeds when he was just 15-years-old and rose through the ranks to become one of the squad's most respected and formidable players.

He made his debut for Leeds Rhinos in 1999 against Wakefield Wildcats and hasn't looked back. His testimonial match, celebrating 10 years at the club, took place against Hull in January 2009.

But if you thought the man was all about rugby, you'd be mistaken. He's a keen angler, has a passion for science fiction programmes, is a devout Christian and hates the trappings of modern technology.

Married to Emma, 29, he has three children, Lore, three, Dacx, two and Kurgan, one, and if you think those names are familiar, that's because they are.

Jamie explained: "They're all characters from sci-fi series. I've known my wife, Emma, since I was at school. I went to Priesthorpe and she went to Pudsey Grangefield and we first met when I was 14.

"We always said that if we ever got married and had kids we would call one Lore, because it was a name we both liked. There was a character on Star Trek called Lore and he was also a character in a computer game.

"Dacx is also from Star Trek and Kurgan is a character in the film Highlander. We both liked the names."

Having three children under the age of three and a full-time career as a high-profile rugby league player with the most successful club in the land can be stressful, but Jamie is increasingly finding solace in the simpler things in life.

"I love my family, I love having children, it's hard work, don't get me wrong, if one of them wakes up in the night, it can wake all three up and then it's just carnage, but in the grand scheme of things, that's nothing really. They're a big part of my life.

"I started keeping chickens when we moved to a bigger house just recently. It had a bit more space in the garden and an aviary about three metres by two. I'm not into keeping budgies so I thought chickens would go in there. It's great for the kids, Emma likes gardening and I love being outside, so we got some.

"I feed them and put their water out first thing on a morning and at night I clean out the chicken poo and let them have a run round the garden. I get five eggs a day off them and one regularly lays double-yolkers. I hand eggs out to the lads, they're always asking me for them."

Jamie's penchant for 'the good life' also includes fishing, something his grandfather introduced him to.

He said: "My granddad used to go pike fishing and taught me how to cast. I fish ponds or rivers. When I was at school, we had these activity weeks, we went to Yeadon Tarn once and I caught three perch. I was 11 or 12. I love it. It's the only time I can really relax.

"I don't get to go as often as I used to. I keep saying to my mate we'll go off one day but things keep coming up."

Jamie trains five days a week, starting at 7.15am and finishing about 1pm, which, aside from a gruelling physical regime, includes analysing his own faults by watching back previous games.

He said: "As a team, we eat together, do weights, hand-eye co-ordination and some visual sight and recognition work, which is about being able to spot opportunities, but we also do video work, which involves previewing our game and our opponents. If we're playing Wigan, we'll watch their last two or three games.

"We have a computer system which allows you to type in a game and your name and it will just bring up all the clips with you in it so you don't have to watch the whole game. It means you have to be very critical of yourself and some people don't like that, but if you can grasp it and deal with it you can become a better player.

"I will watch myself and see things, for example, like how I can run lines better, which players are good to run off and what moves you can do with them, or tackling technique.

"It's one of the areas Leeds has been very successful with, which is what we want. But at the same time, it's not just about us going out and putting 20 or 30 points past smaller teams. You have to fight for every point, whether it's bottom or top of the league.

"When teams come to us they want to beat us, it's the highlight of

their week so we are constantly playing teams at their best. Leeds has put a lot into youth training and I think that's paid off in terms of the quality of players who have come through."

The other big thing in Jamie's life is his faith – he's a devout Christian and tries to apply it to his everyday life.

"I believe everyone is attracted to God, it just comes out in different ways. I attend the City Evangelical Church in Beeston on Sundays and I am trying to set up a group with some lads at Headingley, including some from rugby union and some cricket players.

"I'm fortunate to have a great group of friends at the Rhinos. There's a bit of fun and banter in there too but Christianity is a big part of my life.

"We have a chaplain called Steve, he comes up every week or every other week. It's not about ticking boxes, like saying 'I've done this today so that makes me a good person', I think actions are a by-product of faith, not the other way around."

It's true to say rugby runs not just in his veins but in his family in general. Jamie has three half-brothers, all of whom have ended up

playing rugby league.

He explained: "My biological father had several children to different women and it's really strange how they've all ended up playing rugby. One of them, Jodie Broughton, who plays for Salford, I only met a few years ago when he came to Leeds Academy and it was strange. I knew of him, but we'd never met before. We had a hug and a chat and we're good friends. There's also Brooke Broughton, who plays for Warrington and Austin Buchanan, who plays for Dewsbury."

So, will he be getting any more chickens?

"If I had more land, I would definitely get more chickens," he says enthusiastically, adding: "I keep joking about getting some pot-bellied pigs but I think it's something you have to do properly and at the moment I don't have the time, but I like that kind of lifestyle.

"I think society is very interesting at the moment in that a lot of people are going back to that simpler way of life, getting wood-burning stoves and things like that. I think the more technology we have, the more problems we have.

"I'm like everyone else, I have a TV and an X-box but as I get older I'm starting to realise that being outside and getting close to nature is the way to be."