Jimmy Gopperth’s new home in Leicester couldn’t be much further from the coast, but the veteran has shown that surfing – plus golf – is key to his exceptional longevity.
And as he prepares to continue playing into his fourth decade, Gopperth explained, “Age is just a number. I’ll keep going until the wheels fall off!’ The New Zealand-born fly-half or centre, 39, has enjoyed a distinguished career, first at home and then in the UK, with impressive stints in Newcastle, Leinster and Wasps.
He crossed the divide in the Midlands this summer by trading Wasps for Premiership champions Leicester and has no plans to slow down with the Tigers.
“I obviously look after myself and have a good balance of rugby, life and lots of golf which keeps me in check,” Gopperth said ahead of Leicester’s clash with Newcastle on Saturday.
“My body still feels very, very good. Surfing is a big topic. Since I surfed all the time growing up, it gave me balance, real core strength and also shoulder stability. “Of course, finding some ocean is a little harder in the Midlands! It’s about two hours 45 south of Wales to catch some waves. It just trains my muscles all around.
“I also invested in a hot tub at home. I love the heat now – I stay away from cold pools now. This is not good for my old joints! Anything related to heat, I’m in there all the time.’ Gopperth will be 40 next June. The Devon village of Croyde, the South Wales coast or a man-made surf spot in Bristol are the go-to places for him to get his much-needed chilled water solution.
With almost 500 career games under his belt, Gopperth’s vast experience has added to the Leicester ranks after they sealed the Premiership title under the stewardship of head coach Steve Borthwick last season.
Leicester’s signing of Gopperth from Wasps surprised people but it’s probably a smart move by Borthwick as he will be available for the Tigers all year round.
“There were a lot of very disappointed people. But to be fair, a lot of people wished me well, which I really appreciated,” Gopperth said of his departure from Wasps.
“When a player leaves a club after seven years, it’s always a sad time. I have relationships with many fans at Wasps.
“In the last 10 years you’ve seen a lot of guys go to competing clubs, that’s the professional world. Everyone respects that it’s part of the profession we’re in these days.” Gopperth and Leicester were beaten in Exeter on the season’s opening weekend.
With Gopperth, Richard Wigglesworth, Chris Ashton and Dan Cole in his Tigers squad, Borthwick is not lacking in experience.
The quartet has 148 years together and all four are still going strong.
Scrum half Wigglesworth, also 39, started last season by beating Saracens in the Premiership final. Wing Ashton, 35, is the Premier League’s top scorer. Cole, 35, excelled in Exeter last weekend.
“You have to have experience in your team,” said Gopperth.
“When I was a little kid making my debut in Wellington, I sat on the bench and didn’t start a game in 2003 and 2004. I’ve got a little time here and there, but I’ve learned from all the older guys.
“They didn’t even have to come up and talk to me. I would just watch them play. If you take all that experience away from your team, who can the young people learn from?’