Kiwi winger and international super star Jason Nightingale refuses to slow down his blistering playing pace, and doesn’t seem to know the meaning of ‘player burnout’.
Nightingale hasn’t missed a game for the Kiwis since 2008, having pulled on the black jersey twenty-one times in the six years since his selection.
The 28-year-old has proved his worth time and time again for St George Illawara in the NRL and a year hasn’t gone back that he hasn’t appeared on the wing of the second ranked international side.
According to the Kiwi, he just doesn’t acknowledge when he feels like he’s tired, and he’s often operating on a second-wind.
“If I was burnt out, I’d probably have to say something. You can’t just go in underdone or out of shape, because you’ve got to be honest,” Nightingale says.
“You’ve got to be able to give your best for your country otherwise there a lot of other people that are willing and deserving to be there if that’s the sort of shape your body’s in.”
Nightingale has fought off other stars that contend for his position on the pitch, including Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Sosaia Feki and Manu Vatuvei, but he has established himself as a mainstay of the New Zealand line-up, with coach Stephan Kearney placing a lot of trust in the star.
Regardless of if Nightingale has played a full season without missing a game, he will always be ready to don the black during the off-season and face off against the other international titans of the NRL world.
2010 was a shining point for the high-flying winger, playing 32 games including twin grand finals and a Four Nations victory with New Zealand.
A resounding testatment to Nightingale’s refusal to count himself out, a season hasn’t gone past since 2007 when he made his first-grade debut where he hasn’t chalked up at least 25 games in the season.
“I suppose a lot of hard work, a lot of rehab goes into that, if you keep going on tour and keep playing all season round,” he said to explain.
“But then also, we get a break from pre-season. We miss the first six weeks of pre-season so that does help.”
“That’s where they get a lot of their volume in and if you miss that then it can really help you recover.”
“I think we’d all love to be playing footy all year round and never have a pre-season.”
“I suppose missing that helps, as long as you take your break to make sure that you keep up on rehab and make sure you’re actively recovering.”
“It’s been slow and steady, but awesome to get that (20-Test) milestone on the weekend. It’s something to be proud of.”
A turning point in Jason’s international career was when Nathan Brown approached him and asked if he wanted to play State of Origin.
Nightingale was hesistant, as he had always wanted to represent the country of his parent’s birth, and knew that this might be a chance that would take that a way from him.
“I think it was 2008 when City/Country was being picked. Browny [the coach] came up to me and I said I always wanted to play for the Kiwis and he said, ‘Well, I’ll tell City that you’re unavailable’,” Nightingale recalled.
“And I said, ‘Yep, go and do that.’ That’s when I made my decision. I debuted that year and yeah, if there was ever a choice I’d be choosing New Zealand.”
“It’s a shame that we can’t be involved in Origin, but there’s a lot of benefits about playing for your country. I’m sure my family are happy with my decision and I am as well.”
A disappointing turn in his career at club St George is that he’ll be returning to the 2015 season without his fellow winger Brett Morris marching out onto the field with him.
Both players had played only in the Red V of the Dragons and were looking to make themselves one club players for their entire career.
The international star announced this week that he would be moving to the Canterbury Bulldogs to join twin brother Josh, where both are hoping to see out their NRL careers.
The club is in turmoil at the moment, with many star players reportedly unhappy with the management, and some are saying that Morris will only be the first to leave.
Nightingale himself said that he was disappointed with the rumblings going on in the media and with the club.
“I’m definitely disappointed to see it played out in the media. I think business should be business,” he said.
“Obviously there’s a lot of public interest surrounding it, but you’d like to see it happen more in-house than how it’s been played out in Sydney.”
Even the Kiwi winger has been reportedly looking to move away from his home club, but the 28-year-old refuses to comment on the rumours, and insists he’ll be with the club next season.
His current deal ends in 2015, but many fans are already calling to have his signature to extend the deal, and some believe that Jason Nightingale should see out his entire career in the red and white of the Illawara club.
“I’ll definitely be there in 2015, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’m off contract, and I want to stay at the club,” he said.
“[But] that decision is still a long way away for me. We’re talking about things in 2016 and we haven’t even started an off-season for 2015.”
“So it’s funny when it comes down to that, there are obviously some things going on.
“There are rumblings coming out of there, but I’d prefer to just focus on this tour initially and then figure that out once the 2015 season comes around.”
Blues Origin star Josh Dugan has also gone on record to say that he’ll be staying with the Dragons rain, hail or shine, but monster prop Trent Merrin’s future is more doubtful however, especially with two new young props being brought in as possible replacements.
All but Morris have appeared in training however, and fans are waiting with bated breath to hear the next news coming from the Dragons’ management and HQ.