Sydney University’s James Kane: The Man Behind The Boot

by Shute Shield Media Unit | August 13, 2019
Sydney University’s James Kane: The Man Behind The Boot

James Kane is often labelled the villain to opposition fanbases. If he’s not infuriating the other team’s faithful punters with his super left foot and accurate goal kicking, then his near-perfect set of calf muscles already have. It doesn’t worry the UK born speedster what those punters think of him, just as long as he’s doing his bit for his team, he’s happy.

He is someone who you’d love to have on your team but absolutely despise if he’s on the other one and it’s largely due to the unwavering talent the University winger possesses. Kane made his first-grade debut in 2016 at Rat Park at just 20 years old and has racked up four premierships since joining the club in 2015.

2nd Colts Premiership in 2015, 1stColts Premiership in 2016, 2ndGrade Premiership in 2017 and 1stGrade Premiership in 2018. Did we forget to mention he has also racked up 1000 points for Sydney University and came in a close 2nd on the player points leader board this year with 177.

Club Rugby TV sat down for a chat with the super boot winger to talk all things footy, acting and what it’s like being a goal kicking red-head for Sydney University.

First off, what do you get up to outside of footy?
Well like most of us who are still studying, it’s hard to maintain a full-time workload as well as uni and training so you mostly see me serving up pints to a couple of old codgers or trying to launch a skincare business off the ground.

What do the boys call you? Kano? Jimmy? Big Red?
What most don’t realise is from an early age having been called James you’re subject to a rife of nicknames, Jim, Jimmy, Jimbo, Jamie and I am only ever really called James when I’m in trouble with Mum, God help me if she calls me by my full name. It was a big thing at school to just go with Kane, Kano or JK and that seems to have been what has stuck.

Where did the rugby journey start for you? You grew up in England, did you play much soccer? You can’t be that good off the tee without having a soccer background surely?
I started playing soccer at about age 5 and fell in love with it. Obviously, in the UK and Europe, it is a religion, so it was super easy to become fully immersed. I played for Ascot, which is about 90 mins South of London, until U12’s and continued to play when we came back to Australia for a few years, playing for Wollongong Wolves.

Who’s your EPL team?
I have always been a Liverpool fan

You grew up in the Illawarra region, played your junior rugby down there on the South Coast. What was it like growing up in the Gong?
It’s not too dissimilar to Newcastle, your classic industrial and mining coastal town and unfortunately, if you’ve seen the photos of Harry Holmes from his golden days in ‘Newy’ my hair and fashion style wasn’t too far from that. It was unacceptable if you couldn’t skate, so most of the time it was like a real-life rendition of ‘Angry Boys’ doing mainies down the beach, with a Cold Rock Deli ice cream. It’s been a really long road…

You’re the real-life Troy Bolton from High School Musical and a talented actor. Tell us a little about that and does the acting ever coincide with your footy?
Yeah, thanks for that one. Acting is something I have always loved and has been the other passion of mine away from the field. At the moment mainly doing ads and background extras stuff on shows like Home and Away and Rake. The two don’t always go hand in hand and it has certainly been interesting doing both, especially going through school at King’s. There certainly weren’t many blokes who played a high level of footy at school and did the plays and musicals but it’s certainly nice to have seen those numbers increase since I’ve left. But it definitely had its clashes. I had my first ever lead in a musical in year 10 and had to miss Kings v Joeys at Joeys, which was always the big fixture of the year for us, and well let’s just say it did not go down well. But I always get a kick out of seeing the look on people’s faces when you tell them you study drama and do T.V. work on the side.

Red-headed goalkicking winger, I’d imagine you’d be copping it left right and centre by opposition fan bases. What’s the best sledge you’ve ever been dealt, and which clubs crowd never fail to bring it to you on the side lines?
The fans and I have what I’d call a love, hate relationship. There has certainly been some colourful sledging, it seems they are all very good mates with my mum. Obviously, the red hair is the go-to, the only thing that changes are the adjectives that accompany ‘Ron Weasley’. You always know you’re in for it when you come up against the ‘Hillbillies’ and Eastwood, they are definitely the most welcoming and friendly out of the lot.

Onto 2019, it’s been a cracker year for you. Plenty of meat pies (7), 65 conversions and surprisingly only 4 penalties but you ended up with 177 points in the regular season, and second on the player points total. How’s it been for you?
I’ve been happy with it so far. I just wanted to try a have another consistent year in 1stgrade and work on some weaker parts of my game. But I couldn’t have scored as many points as I have without the blokes out there next to me and I’ve been very fortunate to have been a part of this squad for two years and without them my job is redundant.

Rob Taylor, you’ve had him as your Head Coach since 2016 in Colts, and now the past two years in first grade. How has he impacted your rugby?
Rob is fantastic. I remember one of the first times he rocked up to preseason in 2016, a few of the boys and myself were having a chat with him and we were discussing our plans for the Christmas break. One of the boys asked Rob, “so you going home to NZ to see your family” and he just responded with “I’ll be in the office watching code.”

From then on you could tell we were in for an interesting ride. RT’s ability to dissect the game and create an in-depth level of understanding about how the game works and how to improve your own game is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It’s not only about the on-field stuff but a heavy focus on the off-field as well. I’m doing things as a player now, in terms of training and game prep, that 4 years ago I didn’t even know existed. Dedicating the time to improving your own game is so crucial if you want to take it to the next level and I feel as though I am at least on the path to understanding how to do so. He is a pure rugby nut that lives and breathes it and I have never met anyone like him.

You’ve come through with players like Will McDonnell, Harry Potter, Tim Clements and Guy Porter. While you’re all still 23 and under, plenty of people don’t realise how long you’ve been together for, tell us a bit about that?
It’s awesome to see that a fair chunk of the 1stgrade squad came up together through Colts and I personally believe it makes a huge difference to not only partnership and understanding on the field, but to the culture and cohesion as a group. One thing about all us all being so young is we have had to learn the ropes together and at the pinnacle, it is very much sink or swim. So, having those blokes around me, especially with my game, I know I can rely on them if things are going wrong and they will always be there to help me out and vice versa. But one thing’s for certain, if they are sick of your antics, you’ll know about it. Which is most of the time.

Is Super Rugby something you aspire to?
I think it’s most rugby players dream to represent their State and Country and it is certainly mine. I want to go and play overseas in either the UK or France and try to improve my game. Having a UK passport certainly helps jumping hemispheres, but in saying that, if the opportunity came, I would love to play Super Rugby here and stay local. It’s a tough nut to crack and turn into a career so would be grateful for any opportunity to do so.

Manly this weekend, they’ve knocked you off once this season. What are your thoughts on them and how do you get it done this Saturday?
Manly are arguably the best team in the competition this year, with a red-hot backline and a big tough forward pack. It is going to be a classic finals footy matchup and with the weather supposedly blowing a gale you can expect some serious close-quarters combat. They are a side that you need to fight for the whole game, and you can’t afford to give them an inch, so for us, it will be a massive focus on being 100% accurate and clinical in everything we do.