In his book ”Belonging”, Alun Wyn Jones, together with his co-writer Tom Fordyce, traces his personal and playing journey from the Mumbles to captain the Ospreys, Wales and the British and Irish Lions.
The authors engage the reader with an insightful, honest and emotionally challenging text that addresses the personal drive, support of family, players and coaches as well as dilemmas of a personal nature.
Alun Wyn Jones is one of the outstanding rugby players of his generation. His performances as captain of Wales underline his standing as a rugby player, a leader and role model. He won 149 caps, three Grand Slams and an OBE award. His status within Wales and the wider rugby fraternity puts him on a par with other greats such as Barry/The King, Gareth, JPR, JJ, etc, and he is recognisable simply as “Alun Wyn”.
For instance, the author speaks highly of his initial coaching and success at Bonymaen. These factors motivated him to toughen up and develop his fitness and skills.
An Undoubted Role Model
Throughout the text, he extols his gratitude for the support of his wife, Anwen, and children, his Mum and Dad and his Welsh-speaking maternal grandmother. He particularly reflects how her example ingrained within him a desire to take every opportunity.
Alun Wyn is undoubtedly a role model for all aspiring performers. He details his determination, personal desires and commitment to fitness and strength training.
He emphasises the importance of taking control and creating a work ethic by training responsibly and eradicating complacency. This personal dedication to developing character by working hard and achieving personal satisfaction was evident at a young age. Wyn Jones says, “You still went training even when your mates went to the pub”.
This section on “hunan hyder” (self-belief) has excellent discourse on issues such as how you react to being subbed. It covers the fine margins between playing or sitting on the bench, and reflections such as “just because I’d discovered I like to drink didn’t mean I could”.
Dignity and Humility
In contrast to other star players who end up focusing on headline-grabbing incidents, Alun Wyn writes with feeling, dignity and humility without trying to steal the spotlight. He would rather focus on the positive impact of coaches and teammates.
Jones articulates how his interactions with players stimulated his desire, determination and dedication to improve his career. He also speaks highly of Shaun Edwards and has high regard for Warren Gatland as a person and as a coach. Alun highlights the positive impact of the Gatland/Edwards coaching team.
The sensitive manner in which Fordyce discusses Alun Wyn’s insightful memories of his dad’s strength and personality strikes a personal chord. I trained with Tim, Alun’s father, when we were “Pantycelyn” students at Aberystwyth University.
This autobiography is outstanding. It promotes real insight into the personal drive and determination that have developed an exceptional rugby player and leader. It would also be an asset in schools and sports clubs as a practical text promoting motivation, determination and humility. The examination boards in Wales and England should consider it as a set book for GCSE English.
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