Forget bone-crunching rugby tackles, Harlequins’ Joe Marler explains why fatherhood is a whole lot tougher.
Marler has already notched up over 150 appearances for the London outfit, winning a European cup as well as the club’s first ever Premiership title in the process. The 26-year-old prop has just helped Quins (as fans call them) to sixth place in the Aviva Premiership table and automatic qualification for next season’s European Champions Cup.
However, while he admits that the 2016/17 season was a “tough old slog”, he says that fatherhood requires even more effort. “It’s a very different job to my day job,” reflects the 18 stone powerhouse, who is dad to a son and daughter, both toddlers. “In fact it’s a lot harder. But I enjoy being a dad as much, if not more, because it’s so rewarding. Even the tough times are fun because it’s always a challenge.”
Strength in numbers
Luckily the challenge of juggling a career in the sporting spotlight and raising children at home isn’t one Marler has to do alone. “My wife, Daisy, is very good at helping me balance the two [rugby and fatherhood]. Sometimes the team has double-days and I need to get an early night, a decent shut eye. So she’ll do the night shift with the kids.”
Still, the mental roller coaster ride of a rugby season, as Marler describes it, poses some sticky parental reflections. “The toughest part about being away often is not just being the fun parent who comes back and plays Scalextric and watches cartoons all day. It’s about the, “Hang on, the wife’s with the kids all day, disciplining them and teaching right from wrong,” and getting that harmony right of her not being seen as the one parent who doesn’t let them have chocolate, so to speak.”
Last summer Marler decided to get off the ride and take some time away from the sport after feeling his love for it had waned. He puts his rejuvenation since down to his family. “I took that decision to rest over the summer and spend some good quality time with the kids, something I loved doing. I was with them for five weeks solid, so I could be that dad day in, day out, and take the load off my wife.
It helped my rugby because it gave me that perspective of no matter how well or not I play, when I get back home I can forget about it for the weekend and then work hard again on Monday to improve. It enabled me to put positive pressure on myself in the rugby world.”
So with fatherhood helping him to see the importance of family and keeping his “feet on the ground” in his day job, would he ever encourage his children into the sport? “My son loves rugby, but I won’t put any pressure on him playing it. In fact I’d tell him there are better ways to earn the money — just look at the state of my ears!” Likewise, there are worse ways to take on being a dad than following Marler’s lead.