I was a star international athlete known for being a hardman – but I moved hundreds of miles away for very different job


A FORMER rugby player who used to fight on the pitch to release his angst is now working as a lab technician in Qatar.

Mark Jones, who played for Neath, Ebbw Vale, and Wales, suffered with a stammer and would use violence to vent his frustration.

Mark Jones/Media WalesFormer Wales international Mark Jones is now based in Qatar[/caption]

Huw EvansMark Jones tried to run through a tackle while playing for Ebbw Vale[/caption]

Huw EvansMark has told of how he used a violence as a way to vent his frustrations[/caption]

GettyMark said that Rugby Union probably saved him from depression[/caption]

Mark, now 58, told Wales Online that he would “end up banned and maybe even in jail” if he behaved that way today.

He said: “Back then it was par for the course but that doesn’t excuse some of my actions on the field.

“I was out of control as a player. My speech was awful, and fighting on the field was the way that I could vent.

“These days I’d end up banned and maybe even in jail. That’s how bad I was.

“Players can play very hard without being dirty. Nothing was ever pre-mediated but the red mist just came over me, and I used to snap.”

Today Mark lives in Qatar with his wife. He works in a local school as a lab technician but still retains an interest in Rugby Union.

The former bruiser is now a coach with the Qatar national side and keeps a very close eye on rugby back home in Wales.

Mark, who played Rugby Union and Rugby League, recalled the day when he realised he had to make drastic changes.

After he knocked out a young Ian Gough Mark, he was called in for a chat with Wales head coach Graham Henry and his assistant Steve Black.

Mark said: “They asked me whether my stammer had anything to do with my anger issues.

“That was the catalyst which made me realise it was the reason.”

Mark then agreed to attend counselling sessions, which led to speech therapy classes.

Mark said that during his professional rugby career he was essentially three different people.

He said: “The two around the rugby were roughly the same, but the one at home was totally different.

“At home I was embarrassed, shy, and I wanted to hide behind the curtain board.”

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Mark said that despite his issues with poor discipline on the pitch, rugby probably saved him from depression.

He said: “There are a lot of people out there who have a stammer who have totally frozen, and have fallen into a spiral of depression.

“It would have been very easy for me to go down that route myself, but luckily I had rugby.”

Mark said that although union was rougher then than now, rugby league was particularly tough.

He said: “When I was in rugby league I suffered badly with concussion which had in turn affected my speech, and even made it worse.

“The last few seasons I had up north I lost count of the times I’d carry the ball up, the opposition would smash me direct in the head, and the rest of the game would just be a blur.

“I chose to carry on because it was my job but it got so bad that I used to regularly wake up in the night in agony, and my head felt like it had been hit full pelt in the head by a cricket bat.

“The headaches were awful, and my speech got so bad I found it difficult to string a few words together.

“When I came back to union I had speech therapy, and crucially the hits weren’t as impactful as league was.

“I suffer from short-term memory problems as a direct result of concussion in league.

“There were some concussion protocols back then but it was very much at the players’ discretion, and because there was such a macho culture people didn’t want to look weak by coming off.

“It reached a point with me where I just had to get out of league, I couldn’t take it anymore.

“League was 20 times worse for concussion back then than rugby union because you were constantly getting hit at full force in the head, sometimes by three men.

“Almost every time you carried the ball you’d get one hit on your torso, one on your legs, and one straight to the head.

“I get forgetful all the time, and I’ve been driving my car somewhere I’m familiar with and just get lost.

“Concussion is undoubtedly the biggest threat facing rugby union today with too many players suffering serious health complications as a direct result such as dementia.”

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Mark offered wise words on the modern game, and urged fans to show patience toward players when they under-performed.

He said: “The players don’t go from great to cr** in a couple of years.

“Class is permanent, form is transient.

“If the players perform to what their capabilities are then Wales will do well.”

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