By STEVE MASCORD
“IN the past, I would have given you a bland answer”.
Jason Clark is standing in the tunnel at Halliwell Jones Stadium after his debut for Warrington, a 26-6 thrashing of Leeds in front of packed house.
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There’s no getting around this: Jason is a nice guy. I can’t recall him ever having said a controversial thing. In his 10 years at South Sydney he was adored by fans and team-mates and always kept his nose clean.
Bland answers? Maybe there were a few.
Before we tell you which answer he plans to make un-bland, let’s start with his reaction to events at the weekend.
“Unbelievable,” he says, shaking his head just a little.
“The singing, the atmosphere … coming off the field and having a look back up at the crowd and getting to clap them … mate, it’s a great little community here.
“The game was quite fast tonight, it’s quite a free-flowing game. A lot of people say Super League is a step behind the NRL but the pace of it … it’s not too different. There’s some great players out there as well.”
Jason, 30 this year, swears he hasn’t seen himself on the billboards around town. He mustn’t go outside. I saw him above the urinal in the Golden Square shopping centre earlier in the day.
“It’s a 15 and a half-seater stadium and every one was full.
“I don’t want to keep referring back to Souths because I’m Wire now but at Souths, in the community there were Souths people all around and it’s the same here. You see them wearing the Wire gear walking down the streets of Stockton Heath and you give ‘em a nod and have a chat.
“Fans and members are a big part of the game and I like to give my time to them.
Clark’s uncle, Steve Robinson, played in France and told young Jason that if he ever got the chance, he should come to Europe. “He said it was one of the highlights of his life, he was over there for seven years or so.
“Some people say players see this as an add-on for when they’re at the end of their careers. I definitely don’t think I’m here to be a passenger and take the game for granted. I’m here to enjoy myself but also to win games.
Turns out that I might have been in the same room when the deal was done for Jason to join the Wire, given that agent Steve Gillis – with whom I had more than few drinks that weekend – did the business at Magic Weekend last year.
“Obviously there’s the English boys at home such as Sam Burgess and Sam told me I was going to be in good hands at Warrington, that they’re a great club and they look after their players. I definitely agree with that.”
Clark doesn’t see himself giving the game away when he current contract is up.
But imports in Super League are judged harshly. Clark isn’t a fancy player – he readily admits he does things on the field many fans wouldn’t even notice. While on Saturday night he got the better of a bigger name in Trent Merrin, I wonder if he worries about fan perceptions and the high standards of supporters whose previous Antipodean imports include Brian Bevan, Andrew Johns and Allan Langer.
“I have heard in the past … Roy Asotasi came, Matty King game and a lot of pressure was put on him,” Jason answers. Definitely not a bland answer, that.
“I try not to look at it that way. I just try to do my job for the team and as long as I do that and the boys know that, I’ll be happy.
“The crowd, sometimes they don’t see some things that are needed in a footy game. Some things go un-noticed. As long as the boys are happy with my job being done. that’s the main thing.”
Which brings us to the question which Jason promised not to respond to in a bland fashion. Namely, that question was weather he had his eyes on trophies or, as someone who is happy not to be noticed by fans as long as he’s doing a good job, was he happy to just perform well and get the odd win?
“In the past I would have given you a straight bat,” he smiles.
“But it’s a goal. We’ve got 38 weeks to go but that’s definitely a goal for myself and the team. But you do have to build up to it. We’ve wicked off round one in a good way and we just want to build on that.”
Nathan’s wife Lauren and girls Milla, 5, Andi, 3 and Billie, 2, plan to make the most of living in Europe by seeing as much as they can. His parents Garry and Michelle are visiting and sleeping in the lounge room.
And having helped end a 44 year drought for South Sydney, playing a role in Warrington’s 60-year run of outs would be anything but bland.