Dynamic centre Matt Hopper has enjoyed a great deal of success since his move to Harlequins from the Cornish Pirates in 2011. He spoke to The RPA in 2013 about his carpentry qualifications and his ambitions to move in to property development when the time comes to hang up his boots.
Where did your interest in carpentry come from?
It came from a few different avenues really. Firstly when I was living in Australia I worked for a building company that renovated high-end houses and I found it really interesting. Secondly my parents have always been involved in property so it seemed like I logical avenue to explore once my rugby career comes to an end.
What made you decide to look in to doing a carpentry course?
A few of my friends were doing a course when I was at the Cornish Pirates and it was something I’d always talked about doing but had put off for a couple of years. It got to a point when I felt like I needed a focus away from rugby and the time seemed right to start, so I applied to the course at Nescott College in Epsom.
How were the RPA involved in helping you find a course to study?
To be honest it’s something that I’ve thought about for a while. I had a meeting with my Player Development Manager, Ben McGregor, and I decided I wanted to look into doing a course. Ben was really proactive, he came up with a number of ways in which I could study and he was ultimately the one that found the course at Nescott College.
“It was great because I hadn’t live in the area long so to have his help was a huge help. Having someone there to give you that extra push and motivation really helps and I just carried on from there really.
What do you hope to gain from the course?
I wanted something to do away from rugby and because I’d already been down the degree route I decided I wanted to do something different. A lot of the boys talk about wanting to get involved in property and I’m no different, it’s an area that really interests me. Though I’d like to get some practical qualifications so if I am fortunate enough to start a career in property once my career comes to an end I’ll be able to do the work myself. The qualification is one thing but having the skills to be able to fix up or modify a house is what really appeals to me.
Do you have a clear plan of what you’d like to do once you hang up your boots?
I think at the moment property development is the main area I’d like to go in to but it’s not my only option. I’ve got my degree to fall back on and teaching is another area that I’ve always had an interest in, before rugby that’s what I thought I’d always end up doing.
“Ideally I’ll get me carpentry qualification finished over the next couple of years and I’m still enjoying it I may look to do another qualification similar to that, as if I get in to property I can save a lot of money by doing the work myself instead of employing someone else.
How important do you think it is that players prepare for life after rugby?
I think it’s hugely important and unfortunately as players we know rugby won’t last forever so you need some form future plan in place. We’re not like footballers who can relax once they’ve retired. We get so much free time so it’s nice to find something to do away from rugby because sometimes you’re under a lot of pressure in this game and it’s good to have different to focus at times. With the help of Ben and the RPA I’ve found a course a really enjoy and hopefully it will be a huge benefit in the future.
Is retirement something you’ve thought about?
When I first signed for Harlequins I was 26 and it was always in the back of my mind. I think the first time I thought about it seriously was when the RPA gave us a presentation at the beginning of the season and mentioned the injury rate and how many retirements that has led to. I looked around the room and I thought it was slightly exaggerated statistic but being around the club for the last two years and seeing how many of the lads have had to retire through injury certainly brings the issue to the forefront of the mind.
Do you have any other qualifications besides this one?
As well as my carpentry I’ve also got a degree. I studied Criminology and Education at Cardiff University. The education side gave me a good insight in to teaching and I’m so it will prove useful in the future but fortunately when my rugby career took off my studies took a back seat, it may be something a pick back up in a few years but I’m not entirely sure.
Does all this mean you’re pretty handy when it comes to DIY?
(laughs) well I’m still developing my skills but I’d say I could turn my hand to a few things.
Have you had any DIY disasters?
The first week of my course I put a chisel through my finger! That was pretty painful.