This story was first written for and published by NRL.com.
He’ll be relived he doesn’t have to suffer James Graham’s questionable driving skills but there are a few things departing Dragons prop Jeremy Latimore will miss when he retires from the NRL at season’s end.
With Latimore’s career now five games away from reaching a conclusion, the journeyman prop took time to reflect on his 11 years in the NRL.
He knows the time is right for him to move onto the next chapter of his life.
He made his debut for the Parramatta Eels in 2009 and his career has spanned 11 seasons for several clubs including the Dragons, Warriors and Panthers. He also pulled on the green and gold in 2015 to represent the Prime Minister’s XIII.
“The body’s been a bit ‘how you going’ this year with some injuries and I’m not getting any younger. I thought this was the best time to go into the next part of my life,” Latimore said.
In an ideal world, Latimore would have signed off after the Dragons featured in the Telstra Premiership finals. Barring a miracle that won’t happen.
“It hurts because it is the pinnacle, playing finals footy,” Latimore said.
“There are eight teams already finished, you’re playing and feeling good about yourself, it’s getting warmer and the body isn’t as sore as it is in the middle of winter and you’re bouncing around. That hurts, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.”
The Dragons bus – the people mover that ferries a number of Sydney-based players to Wollongong for training – has been a big part of Latimore’s commute in recent times.
Challenges – including the eating of hot chilli and other assorted tasks – were a regular occurrence in year one of life in the van.
They’ve died off this year – and Latimore says that may have something to do with the Dragons’ slide down the ladder.
“I’m trying to bring them back. I’m finding a correlation – we were doing it at the start of last year and winning a lot of football games and then we sort of fell apart and we stopped doing it on the bus,” he said.
The one thing he won’t miss is entrusting Graham to driving duties.
“I don’t know if he deliberately drives badly when he drives the Dragons bus but he’s had two or three ding-ups in that, he reversed into a pole,” he said.
“We’ve been going to Wollongong for nearly two years now and he still has to punch the GPS into his own personal car.”
Latimore won’t mind me saying this, but he’s not a player who will be remembered for his immense talent. While his effort has never been questioned, his name will never be mentioned in the same sentence as a Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater or Cameron Smith.
Despite this, he has certainly earned plenty of fans for his efforts on and off the field.
One such off-field incident came this year when he was forced to get a lift to a Dragons game on the back of the motorbike after extensive traffic delays threatened to make him late for a match at WIN Stadium.
“It wasn’t something I had on my bucket list … lucky I got to the game and lucky we didn’t see any police on the way there,” Latimore said of his decision to leave his car on the side of the road and relied on a stranger for transportation.
Ever humble, Latimore also pays tribute to his wife who has supported him throughout his career and followed him from club to club, including overseas.
“She sort of pushed me early on to get in and do something away from footy and that’s why I started my business degree and finished it with her help,” he said.
“She keeps me on the straight and narrow and given me two beautiful children. When they came along they give you a reason to be successful. I have been very lucky with the wife that I have.”
Fortunately, Latimore won’t be lost to the game given that he is a director with the Rugby League Players Association, but he looks forward to drinking a few more coffees at Jason Nightingale’s cafe and embarking on a career as a mortgage broker.
And if you want to catch him on the field, Latimore is committed to playing in the local Wollongong competition though isn’t sure which team he’ll play for. No doubt he’ll have plenty of offers, including one from former team-mate Jeff Robson to link with the Dapto Canaries.