You couldn’t get more proof that Christian Day is a players’ player than being elected chairman of the players’ association three years in a row. It is his tenth year at Saints and with friends all over the game, Christian is hinting that his testimonial year is going to be something a little bit special…
NQ: Testimonial year, big year. Give me an idea of some of the things we can expect.
C Day: Yeah, so not many rugby players have managed to get to a testimonial year, it’s obviously quite a brutal sport. And to stay at a club for 10 years isn’t done too often, so my year starts on the 1st of July, and we’re looking to run a full year of events, hopefully looking to get everyone in Saints Rugby involved right from children right through to the more glamorous people around town. So yeah, hopefully a year to get everyone involved with, have some fun, and raise some money for charity.
NQ: Which charities are you looking to support?
C Day: Yeah, so our two main charities we’re going to be supporting are Niamh’s Next Step, who have had a lot of involvement with the players at Saints, trying to raise the awareness of Neuroblastoma, which is a horrible cancer that mainly affects children, and also the [Leon] Barwell Foundation, which was set up in Leon Barwell’s memory, but again it’s looking to make memories for families who are going to lose someone to a terminal disease of some kind, and make sure that those families those children have got something to look back on in 10 years time, and look back on with some fondness.
NQ: Will it be the usual fare in terms of games, dinners, these kind of things?
C Day: Yeah, the usual kind of events will be there, which you know everyone expects with testimonial, your big gala dinner, and your golf day etc., but that isn’t the only things that I want to do, like I said, I really want to try to have a year that leaves a positive legacy, I really want to do some events that get children involved, you know, meeting some of the players in ways that they haven’t done before, so we’ll be doing a whole range of events right from things that are completely free to do and just come and get involved and have some fun, and then some more glamorous events which hopefully will keep up the standard that’s required to raise some good money for myself and my charities.
NQ: You’re the head of the players’ association…
C Day: I am, yeah. I’ve been chairman of the players’ association for the last three years, been involved with them for five years, so I’ve been fighting for my teammates’ rights for some time.
NQ: So you can call in a few favours there, can’t you I would have thought?
C Day: Yeah, I’ve certainly met some influential people. I just hope, like I said, my testimonial has a positive legacy that I’m doing it for the right reasons, and hopefully the person I am will mean I’ll get all the support I need.
NQ: In terms of your memories of over the ten years, what kind of things stand out for you?
C Day: The double winning season, you know, takes some beating in anyone’s eyes. Those two weeks, three weeks of the premiership semi-final, the European final, the premiership final, and then the day after, the parade through town where the players were expecting one man and his dog to turn up, and I think 20,000 people turned up. It was incredible, so that’s probably my most glitzy, glamorous memory, but I think the things most players will say they remember, you remember the trophies you win, you remember the people you played with, and I’ve made some amazing friends here, a lot of the players have been around for quite a long time, and I’ve made some real friends for life, that’s probably the two things that will stick with me.
NQ: It’s quite a settled squad here now…
C Day: I think in professional sport you’ll always have turnover of players, there’ll be plenty of people who’ve left the club who I still stay in contact now, but yeah having Jim here for the 11 years that he’s been here means there hasn’t been that sudden huge turnover of players that a new coach often demands, and we’ve been pretty damn successful to be honest over those 11 years, so you know, the players deserve to be here for another day.
NQ: No one’s talking about you hanging your boots up yet, but have you got a view about what you might get into afterwards?
C Day: Yeah, I do a lot of work with the players’ association, I’d love to stay involved with rugby, you know, off the field. I think I’ve done my time on it, so I do like the governance side of rugby, but the chances of that sort of job falling into my lap is not exactly guaranteed, so I have a degree in engineering, so teaching will probably be my calling post-rugby, unless something more glamorous comes along.
NQ: Do you think you’ll stay in the Northampton area?
C Day: Yeah, quite possibly, I’ve lived 10 years here now, both my kids were born here, I’ve played the most games of any club I’ve played for here. It’s certainly a massive part of my life, and I wouldn’t see any harm in staying here a little longer.
NQ: Kind of grows on you doesn’t it, Northampton? You get here, you think what is this place and then…
C Day: Yeah, I think everyone arrives and goes straight into the town centre and regrets it. I think bits of Northampton are absolutely beautiful, it’s amazing you can drive five minutes out and you’re in rolling countryside. I think it’s a fantastic place to live, and very happy I have lived here.
NQ: It’s an interesting time to be in the position you are in with the players’ association, because there’s so much talk now about the physical toll that rugby takes on the players, and there’s obviously increasing pressure to play more games, and so on. What’s your take on that? Have we kind of hit a limit, how do we know when we’ve hit that limit?
C Day: I think professionalism has taken its time to fully ramp up in rugby. I only turned professional round the turn of the millennium, so I think we are now starting to realise that in the days of commercial sport people want to make money, the way to make money isn’t necessarily to ask more and more of the people who make that money for you. Up to this point, things have been quite stable, there haven’t been any major fallouts, I think, you know premier rugby is talking of expanding the season an extra month, and that’s something a number of players are concerned about, because I think we are getting to close the edge of what’s possible in terms of physicality, in terms of sustainability. One player can get lucky, and go three four years, nothing happens to them, but if you look at the numbers, if you look at the physicality of the game, the size of the players, the speed that the game is played at, it’s just going up and up and up, and as you said, there has to be a breaking point, we need to try and make sure the people off the pitch make sure that we don’t reach that breaking point, and we look after the primary assets of rugby, which are the people who play the game at the end of the day.
NQ: There’s something in the nature of rugby players – that won’t back down kind of spirit – and you do worry that it won’t be the players necessarily who say we can’t do this anymore, because that is almost contrary to the spirit of the way rugby players behave.
C Day: No, you quite often get asked the question, you know, parents with young kids “why would I let my kids play rugby?” I think rugby teaches values that few other sports do for children in terms of teamwork, in terms of comradery, in terms of all shapes all sizes can play the game. Rugby has so many positives going for it, as you said, rugby players sometimes don’t look after their own as well as they should, because it’s a tough man’s game, a tough man’s world, a tough person’s world, I know plenty of women who play rugby as well. And as I’ve said, I just hope the people off the field are looking at their primary asset, which is their rugby players, and thinking we need to look after these C Days, make sure in ten, twenty, thirty years time we don’t have a bunch of cripples walking around, basically.
NQ: How long do you stay in that role?
C Day: No, so the chairperson’s role is voted for each year by all of the player reps, but as I’ve said this is my third year, and I’ll be stepping down this Summer. I think it’s time for someone else to take up the reins, and I’ve obviously got my testimonial to focus on a little bit, so I’ll be staying involved with the players’ association, but hopefully someone else will, well someone else will step up and hopefully drive it forward the way I tried to.
NQ: So what are your plans for the Summer? Are you going out to New Zealand to watch?
C Day: No, no, no, something the players’ association fought hard for was a guaranteed five week off season, so end of the season, we’ll all take our five week break which lets us physically recharge, but most importantly mentally recharge, and we’ll probably be back in start of June, ready to go again, and ramp it up for another season. It’s not a part-time job, it’s pretty full-time, and pretty intense for the ten months a year we’re expected to be training.
NQ: And free time, how does Christian Day fill his free time? Stamp collecting?
C Day: Like I’ve said, I’ve got two young children, so not too much free time unfortunately. Mostly spent looking after them, taking them places, letting them do all the hobbies they want to do etc. But I do like a game of golf when the body allows. So, a game of golf on a nice golf course keeps me happy.
The fundraising activities kick off with a British Lions Breakfast, which is taking place at Franklins Gardens on Saturday 1st July for the second test. Tickets are £45 for adults and £30 for children and include a luxury breakfast as well as the chance to enjoy half-time antics from Christian and some of his fellow Saintsmen, including Ben Foden and Alex Waller. To book your ticket, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Meanwhile for more details on the calendar of events, to pre-order your rugby shirt or annual, or to show your support for Christian through a range of sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.day5testimonial.com You can also follow the special year on twitter at @Day5Testimonial and on Facebook at facebook.com/Day5Testimonialyear