Modest, kind and humble people are notoriously difficult to interview and write about. By
comparison self-absorbed and boastful bigheads are a doddle: they trot out well polished
accounts of their achievements and have loads of things to say about setbacks depriving
them of success that should be their due. You can record and write this stuff up and let
readers reach their own conclusion. On the other hand truly modest people are hard work
and unless you have obtained evidence of that person’s successes elsewhere you can be
lulled into thinking he or she hasn’t done much. As we will see Jared has much he could brag
about but I bet that hardly any of his workplace colleagues would know what an exceptional
squash player he is.
I’ve hardly exchanged more than the odd sentence with Jared over the past decade. He’s
friendly and there’s always his enigmatic smile and I once had a game with him when
George got him to cover a club night but what I knew about him could be written on the
back of a postage stamp. You pick up a bit about Chris Lloyd as he arrives at the club in a
truck containing his landscaping clobber and titbits about George due to his absences
caused by frequent overseas trips to places like Hong Kong, mainland China, The States and
most recently London but Jared is a blank canvas. He’s someone I’ve often watched play
both squash and racketball, marvelled at his control of a racket and ball, seen him at the bar
yet know nothing about him but know he’s a great bloke.
Matt Taylor suggested I spoke to Jared for these pieces giving me some of his back story,
which I should have recorded at the time, and also asserting something to the effect that
this guy is the most gifted member of our Cousins Shield squad. Given how good the rest of
them are and also knowing how shrewd a judge of talent Matt is those words stuck and I
was keen to find out more. Matt told me of Jared’s precocious ability and an injury that
arrived just as he was on the verge of hitting the big time. Fate can be a cruel mistress:
talent, great coaching, training, a good temperament and all the other ingredients required
to make someone a top sportsperson amount to nothing unless you’re lucky enough to be
able to dodge injury and Jared wasn’t. He was under a surgeon’s knife when he might
otherwise have been stepping onto a podium at 18, worked relentlessly to get back to
fitness and form only to suffer a groin strain necessitating further surgery two years later
and then, to cap it, gets glandular fever. The dream of becoming a professional squash
player had turned into a nightmare. He looked round for alternative employment and ends
up working in a car yard and then moves into finance and insurance where he’s been for the
past decade. For the past seven years he has worked for the Turner Group (the car auction
people) as a loans specialist at one of their offshoot companies.
What was striking about getting this information out of Jared was the complete absence of
self-pity or even disappointment. “It wasn’t to be.” He responds to my questions about the
setbacks that prevented him realizing his sporting potential adding that ‘his body wasn’t
made for it.’ He accepted his fate and moved on. But it wasn’t the end of his squash story.
I’d started by asking Jared about how he got into squash. I’ve asked all our elite players this
question and while the places and names of mentors and coaches are different just about
everything else is the same. Both Jared’s parents played squash: Dad was B grade and
incidentally a Premier League Rugby player while his Mum was a D grader. He was taken to
a club in Titirangi and was using a squash racket soon after the removal of his last nappy –
well almost. He has a sister who mis-spent her youth studying and is now a doctor while her
brother thrived as a junior, he was initially coached by the legendary George Mein up to
around ten before he was drafted into the national squads becoming New Zealand under 13
champion when he was 12, went on to win the under 15 and under 17 titles and was New
Zealand junior champion in 1999 and 2000. He got to A grade around his 15 th birthday
around the same age as Bryce and a few years earlier than Matt or Chris and even Paul Coll.
George Crosby is too modest to remember when he got to this milestone but he would have
been pretty young and deflected the question telling me that Glen Wilson, who managed
the Commonwealth Games team, got there before everyone else. Whatever: it just
highlights what an exceptional schoolboy player Jared was.
Jared went to Kelston a sports mad rugby school but it did have a squash team that he was
part of and his success in national champs helped put the game on the map there.
One of the perks of being a top junior is that you get to travel. There were tournaments in
Australia and World champs in Milan, Italy and apparently these trips included time to
sightsee so he got to see places in Europe well ahead of most of his peers.
After the injuries, sickness and abandonment of a dream to become a squash pro Jared
continued to play. He was part of the Royal Oak team that won the Cousins Shield despite
only being seeded fifth. He’d known Matt Taylor through squash and Matt it was who
suggested he joined Herne Bay and has been part of our team since. He considers himself to
be on the fringes now but as every captain knows successful teams need a strong squad to
select the best available and injury free quartet. He considers Herne Bay a second home and
drives across the city to play here. Matt continues to be the person he most enjoys playing,
apparently they have been evenly matched over the years and was due to have a hit with
him shortly after the interview.
Finally I asked Jared if he enjoyed squash as much as he did. He told me that his enthusiasm
had waned as he gets frustrated that he isn’t as fit as he could be as he hasn’t as much time
for the game as he once did. He now has the domestic commitments of having a six year old
son, a three year old daughter as well as a 18 year old step son. He also blames himself for
weight gained and the temptation of his wife’s cooking plus there’s a lot of sitting around at
work. But he adds that he’ll keep going as long as he enjoys it. He’s also mindful that it’s
awfully difficult to get back into squash if you take a break. The thing he enjoys most, the
best bit, are the post match beers. “A hard game makes you feel you deserve a beer.” We
can all drink to that.
Jared Conning might be nigh on impossible to know but it doesn’t matter: he’s someone you
Post script: I submitted this interview to Matt Taylor and he got back to me and told me that
Jared represented NZ on two Junior World Champs at Princeton USA as well as the one he
mentioned in Italy and of more significance was runner up in the New Zealand Senior
Championships in 2002 knocking out Paul Steel in the semis breaking his run (and no doubt
heart) of ten consecutive titles. Jared was twenty at the time. It only goes to show that the
quiet ones are the ones to watch.
We are hosting Coffee Supremes Aeropress competition in our club lounge over the weekend. Please be courteous and avoid the club lounge if possible.
The club had a Spot Visit last week from the Police (The District Alcohol Harm & Prevention Unit)
They were very impressed with the club, the set up and our adherence to the "regulations of the Sale & Supply of Alcohol Act 2012".
However, A REMINDER though. If you are in the Bar with a Non- Member, Please can you ensure they are signed in ! -(the visitor book is on the Bar).
Also - we are only 8 volunteers short to get us covered for a calendar month. If you are keen to assist in having access to the Bar and spending 1 evening, or afternoon in the weekends helping, then please contact Rob on 0274456007 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The days that need covering are; the 8th,9th,16th,18th, 19th, 24th, 25th, maybe 26th?, and 27th of each month. Training will be provided.
A big welcome to our new members! A record month for the club!
Pilates classes are held on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9.30am and Saturdays at 10am.
Need to speak with Pia? Call her on 029 6277 437
5 classes for $50 - Introductory Offer.
"Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness” Joseph Pilates
Our web site: www.hernebayrackets.co.nz/
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