Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Stephen Ferris keen to repay game he loves... after well-deserved rest

Passion: Stephen Ferris will recharge his batteries and consider his next move
Passion: Stephen Ferris will recharge his batteries and consider his next move

Although injury has ended Stephen Ferris's playing career at the age of 28, that misfortune has done nothing to diminish his love of the game.

The now-retired Ulster, Ireland and Lions back row giant plans to help out at Dungannon, albeit in a minor capacity at this stage. In addition, he has vowed that on Friday nights he will be at Ravenhill supporting his former team-mates.

Rugby has taken much from him, but it has given him a lot more in exchange. For that reason he went out of his way to underline the fact that he feels no sense of having been short-changed. He has a host of great memories and friendships as a result of having played the game.

Regrets?

"Absolutely none," he replied.

"Jamie Roberts has just texted me to say all the best post-rugby. That's a guy I met with the (2009) Lions and now he's a friend. There's a lot of guys like that; I've met a lot of friends right the way through rugby – lifelong friends. That's what a lot of people love about it – you make such good mates."

As for what comes next, he explained: "I've no plans as yet. I think I just need to get a break, get the head showered. Over the last 18 months I've only been able to get away for an odd week – maybe two when I got a bit of time off.

"It's been a tough couple of years personally on the rugby pitch, and I feel like I just need to get away from it.

"The timing is actually okay – there's no more games now for Ulster until the start of the season, so maybe I just need to get away until then and then come back and support the lads."

Perhaps because he has spent so much time watching in the past 18 months, the prospect of continuing to do so sits comfortably with him.

"A lot of the lads aren't great spectators but I love it. I love shouting at Andrew Trimble when he runs into touch, 'Why didn't you step back inside?'" he smiled.

"I'll get behind the team. I've been a part of the squad for so long... I would hate to walk away from it and just say 'Thanks very much, that's my time done'.

"I'll be here every Friday supporting the lads. And I'm sure with the Heineken Cup – or whatever it's called now – that I might get the odd trip down to the south of France also."

Other openings at this stage? Giving long-time Ulster team-mate Nigel Brady a hand at Stevenson Park where the hooker has been appointed coach following his injury-enforced retirement.

"Paul Magee has asked me to come in and help with Dungannon next year," Ferris continued. "Nigel is obviously coming back from France – he's had a bit of a torrid time with injury himself – so I'm looking forward to doing a bit of coaching with those guys.

"I've obviously done my coaching badges – a lot of the lads did a lot of the coaching badges last year when we were going through the season – so it's just about clocking up our hours now.

"I think it would be silly for me to walk away from the game and never give anything back. Small bits and pieces here and there for the next year, two years, five years, whatever it may be would definitely keep me involved in the game.

"Dungannon is the club where I started my professional career and I would love to give a bit back to them. Going down there the odd Tuesday or Thursday or getting away with them for a couple of games next year and doing a bit of coaching with them would be fantastic. The club needs to get back up to the level it was at when I was playing."

But he has no desire to enter the full-time coaching arena at this juncture.

"Coaching is hard work," he said. "If the team's not going well the players don't get the chop – it the head coach who gets the chop. I've been in the position here at Ulster when it has happened like that, so it's tough work.

"I don't think I'm cut out for it now, but maybe ask me in 10 years and I might change my mind."

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