'Brussow kept grabbing it': Jordy Reid on dreadlocks, missed tackles and Gloucester
You won’t ever fail to recognise Jordy Reid when he is out there on the pitch with Gloucester, his dreadlocked hair bobbing away as he energetically sets about his business at a club the Australian hooked up with during the lockdown after earning his UK stripes in the Championship with Ealing.
Hair has become a rugby thing in these pandemic times, the closure of the barbers for so long resulting in manes either growing excessively long or getting subjected to rookie home-done cuts. It didn’t matter a whit, though, to the 29-year-old Sydneysider. All the blindside flanker has ever known as an adult is having a big mop on top and it’s still going strong. Still the characteristic that immediately makes him stand out from the crowd.
“It started when I finished school with two other mates of mine,” he explained over Zoom to RugbyPass. “It started that whoever was the last person to cut their hair got a case of beer from the other two, so the three of us had pretty long hair. Then I guess just surfing and whatnot back home in Manly, with the saltwater it just started dreadlocking a bit.
“I was pulling them out to start with and then after a while, it was getting too hard so I just left it and it turned into a bit of dreadlock and a bit of a mane. I thought eventually someone was going to get a razor to it, one of the rugby guys or a mad Monday, and it never happened. So it has just hung around. It was never really a plan. It just naturally turned into dreadlocks and I just left it really.”
You imagine the swinging dreads must surely get tangled up in the line of fire, that tacklers could inadvertently latch onto his lid when trying to grasp the jersey but apparently it’s not that much of a job hazard unless you have drawn the ire of a mischief-making ex-Springboks back-rower.
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“No,” he replied when asked if the long hair was generally a target for nefarious attention from the opposition. “But when I was back in Melbourne playing one of the South African teams there was a guy, Heinrich Brussow, he kept grabbing it, but that is the only one I can remember. I have found a dreadlock on the ground through winter at Kingsholm, though, when I was doing a captain’s run so one had fallen out.”
Enough of the enlightening coiffure chat, let’s get down to brass tacks. As much as Reid has impressed on his first full Gallagher Premiership season at Gloucester, there was one particular issue RugbyPass wanted to get to the nub of.
Every week, the league produces a myriad of statistics, numbers covering multiple different facets of the game. Heading into round 21, a weekend where Gloucester didn’t have a match following their virus-cancelled rendezvous with Bath, Reid was found sitting in 17th spot on the tackles-made chart, his 169 just 31 behind the third-placed Miles Reid of Bath on a list headed by Gloucester teammate Lewis Ludlow with a whopping 280.
Thing is, Reid’s name also featured on a less-complimentary chart, his 32 missed tackles placing him ninth on a list where seven of the eight players above him are all backs with Rhys Priestland leading the way on 45. The figures were news to Reid. “I didn’t know,” he admitted before going on to provide a reasoned explanation as to why he features so high on a ladder where Harlequins’ Alex Dombrandt is the only forward with more tackles missed (33).
“I don’t want to be missing tackles if I have got the opportunity to be making them. That could be a bit of a technique thing but against a lot of teams this year you might notice we try to bring a lot of line speed, get off the line and attack hard to cut down the ball-playing time that the opposition has to attack.
“You see Sale doing it really well and teams are just pretty rigid with it. There might be a two, three-man overlap but they like to get up and force the opposition back inside. Obviously, if you are trying to get off the line quickly and cut down the time for the opposition, a little bit of footwork forcing the player inside, you might only get an arm to him but they get cleaned up the defenders on the inside.
“I guess you are almost trying to shepherd them back into your defence in the middle and not letting them get the ball into the wide channel against you. If you get out there and you see (Semi) Radradra in space or on our team like Louis (Rees-Zammit) in space, you don’t want them getting the ball out on the width with a bit of room to move because it ends up being pretty dangerous.
“That is why you see a lot of teams adapt, bringing quite a lot of line speed and really just trying to cut down the time the opposition has to attack. But yeah, I guess with that comes a few more missed tackles but if it is forcing them back inside to where the bulk of your defenders are, it sort of works out better.”
? Plenty more of this to come from Jordy Reid ?pic.twitter.com/MhIjEpztjS
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) February 23, 2021
Missed tackles or not, Reid has certainly been enjoying himself at Gloucester, his bedding-in at the club not in the slightest disrupted by him getting courted to sign by one head coach only to then arrive some month later and start work with a different head coach.
Kingsholm was a place of swings and roundabouts this time last year, Johan Ackermann (and director of rugby David Humphreys) heading out the exit to be succeeded by the unheralded George Skivington. It wasn’t a problem for the newly-signed back-rower. “I met Johan. We had a connection through Super Rugby, that is where he saw me playing. He recognised me from my days at the Rebels and that is what led to him reaching out to me.
“The management then changed over. It’s not an ideal way to start but I hadn’t spent any time under Johan. I’d only met him once for a coffee to discuss coming down and pretty much by the time George came and we were all in training, it was pretty much like he was the only coach I had.
“It wasn’t really something I was too fazed by. I didn’t know the management before and I wasn’t really too bothered by it [the change]. George spoke to everyone, said everyone was going to get an opportunity to play and if you train well he will pick you. There were no preferences. I just put my head down, trained hard and when I got my opportunity I just tried to take it the best I could and it has worked out well so far.”
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) May 11, 2021
It sure has. There have been 15 Premiership appearances, two more in the Champions Cup, and with a contract extension inked in February, Reid in a good place at Gloucester considering the hoops he had to jump through to be able to play in the UK. Previously, players such as him wouldn’t have been able to secure the necessary paperwork to work here but that changed in 2018, enabling him to travel and play 26 times in the Championship across two seasons before stepping up into the Premiership.
“Originally you either have had to have played for the Wallabies within the last 18 months, something like that, or you had to have a UK passport. Then they opened up a programme where if you played 75 per cent of Super Rugby games in the last two years there was a certain visa that you would get granted.
“When Ealing came to me I had missed a year of rugby, I’d a stress fracture in my lower back so I missed a season with the Rebels but before that, I had been playing all of the games and if you were able to prove you were playing and only missed games through injury, then they counted those games and that was how I was able to get the visa.
“It runs until next year and if I want to renew it I will have to have played 75 per cent of games. It would be easier if I didn’t have to worry about that but at this stage, I have hit the target for this year and that is nice.
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“I guess you are starting to feel a few effects of a long season now. Playing Super Rugby that was 15, 16 games and the Championship with Ealing, it’s a long season but it’s just not the same standard every week. There are obviously weeks where if you are not at your best, you can still get a win or it’s just not as physically demanding against some of the lower teams whereas this year, it’s a lot of games and it’s that week in, week out intensity you have got to bring.
“I have really enjoyed it as well, it has been a great journey so far. At the start, we thought we would be a little bit higher up the ladder. We had a bad run through December, January but it is starting to come together and we can hopefully finish off strong and build nicely into next season.
“For me it has been my first long Premiership season so it’s just trying to find out what works and what makes me feel fresh going into a game but also be physically prepared as well, not underdone, making sure I am still strong and fit enough during the week to keep my body feeling fresh going into the games.”
The only drawback is that a packed-out Kingsholm and the atmosphere it generates is something that Reid is still to experience due to nearly all games taking place behind closed doors until recently when limited numbers of Gloucester fans were allowed entry.
— Joanna Mills (@jomariemiles) February 6, 2021
“When I talk to the guys at Gloucester and at other clubs, they just say how good the fans and the noise is at Gloucester. I can’t wait to experience it next season… with the fans back who know maybe we could have turned some of those close losses into wins with a bit of that energy. I’m definitely itching to experience what Kingsholm is packed out and how noisy the Shed is, that’s pretty mental.”
Joining Gloucester was the upside of the pandemic, though, a base in Cheltenham affording Reid more freedom than in London. Check out his Instagram and you will see he has been able to do some exploring, getting down to the Cornwall beaches and even visiting the famed cheese-rolling Cooper’s Hill.
“It was good timing with the pandemic. We could go on nice walks in the countryside and when stuff started to open up a little bit we did a few of the touristy Cotswold villages like Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold. We were able to get down the beach, drove down to Woolacombe and got a bit of sun last summer which was quite nice.
“We have still been able to get out and about and now things have started to open up again we are starting to get a bit more of a feel for the area. We’re living in Cheltenham and there is a good buzz. It was probably not bad timing moving out of London in a pandemic because there is more space down here, it’s not as dense. I’m really enjoying it so far, loving it. Got two more years so pretty stoked with that.”
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Reid should be as he wasn’t originally on track in Australia to become the professional now loved and adored Gloucester. He loved the game, his father’s influence rubbing off on him, but it took a while for his potential to get noticed, the back-rower emerging at the Rebels in 2013 and making a yellow-carded cameo off the bench against Warren Gatland’s Lions.
“He had brainwashed me but I should have stayed an All Blacks supporter, it would have been a lot more fun time watching rugby, to be honest with you. He was the main influence for me because I watched games with him. He never pushed me to play and then through school, I never did Australian schoolboys.
“When I finished school I played for my club, Manly Marlins, and then from there got picked out into a national academy and then went down to Melbourne. It was a dream to play professionally. I’d never been in any big rep teams growing up, it was never in the forefront of my mind. I just enjoyed playing rugby, trained hard and doors naturally opened for me which was quite a blessing. Definitely had to work for it and it has all fortunately paid off.”
"So at first my mum was against the idea of rugby…" Jordy Reid talks about how his mum needed a bit of convincing for him to start playing pic.twitter.com/D65FAbS08c
— Melbourne Rebels (@MelbourneRebels) May 14, 2017
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