Two weeks into his 16th pre-season as a professional, James Hook says he’s “loving” life at Llandarcy Academy of Sport.
Having turned 34 at the end of June, Hook has taken up the dubious role of the senior man in the squad these days, a situation exacerbated by the absence of Alun Wyn Jones and Bradley Davies, currently on international duty.
However the Ospreys, and Wales’, third highest points scorer of all time clearly believes age is just a number, almost 15 years since his debut against Cardiff Blues in September 2004.
“Older is wiser. I suppose it is a different approach” said Hook.
“You see all the youngsters, eager to learn, I’ve been there 10, 15 years ago. I’m still enjoying it, still loving it, and I’m looking forward to the new season as much as I was when I was 19 or 20.
“It’s still enjoyable which is the main thing. Former players will always tell you, when you stop enjoying it then it’s time to stop. To be fair I feel really good.
“The Welsh boys are away, the U20 boys are off, so there’s a lot of new boys around, integrated into the squad, and it’s been good, there’s a great atmosphere.
“It’s a longer pre-season as well, which does make a difference. We don’t start the season until late September, so it’s maybe not so much of a blast early on and you build into it differently. We are conscious of that, but there’s a good vibe in the group.”
As well as preparing for another season personally, the 2009 British & Irish Lion, is also taking a keen interest in the development of some of the younger players in the squad and has been seen passing on tips to Luke Price and Josh Thomas this summer.
Hook is keen to point out how important it is to play that role as a senior player:
“I’m enjoying that side of it. I realise how important someone like Neil Jenkins was to my development, when I was a youngster coming through, and I’ve been getting plenty of advice from about this side of things now.
“If I can pass on what I know down to these young boys, it’s priceless. Kicking is such a big part of the game, not just nines and tens these days, right across the backline, so if I can help in anyway, I will.
“It’s boys like Luke and Josh who are the future of the Ospreys. Boys who are involved every day in training this summer will be the ones the coaches will turn to in the World Cup and the Six Nations after that. They’ll be involved in a lot of league games coming up. It’s important we are all on the same page and working hard together because this is the squad that will hopefully be winning games for us.”