Self-belief, hard work, and family are key to Chinese player Nicky Nie adapting to Irish rugby. Reporter Xinbei Huang recounts her conversation with the young rugby prospect, discussing player development, injuries, and commitment to the sport.
On a bright Saturday afternoon, I noticed a special player in the grounds of Thurles in Co. Tipperary. In a fierce battle between Nenagh and Cashel, an Asian player stood out from the Irishmen around him. His name is Nicky Nie, and he is the only Chinese player in Nenagh Ormond Rugby Club.
Nicky Nie, born to Chinese parents but raised in Ireland, always had a strong interest in rugby. Due to his athletic prowess, a friend suggested he try the sport. Nicky agreed without hesitation, after spending years watching his classmates play.
“Everything is difficult at the beginning,” Nicky says when he started. Learning the game was tough, but his teammates from multicultural backgrounds were able to help him.
Over the years, Nicky’s self-belief in his talent for rugby has grown. Relying on his strengths to overcome adversity, his main goal was to make the starting fifteen squad for Nenagh Ormond RFC.
Physical fitness is vital to make the starting team. He said: “In order to enter the starting fifteen, I had to work hard and persevere.
“Trying to break into the starting lineup is more difficult because they are so good technically and physically. But as time went on, my technique kept improving.”
Rugby isn’t just a physical sport, but it’s also a mental game. Tactical analysis is just as important as training on the pitch: “I like to solve problems; I will watch games online and try to absorb the information.”
Injuries are common in strenuous sports, and Nicky is no different. In fact, some of the most impressive achievements in his rugby career all relate to injuries.
Nicky thinks his most serious incident was a concussion from playing a match at 16 years of age. While playing, Nicky was hit in the temple by an opponent’s knee, and he fainted directly to the ground.
Another time, an opponent hit his arm with his elbow, causing both arms to be dislocated. Still, he looks back on these incidents with a smile and has no hesitation in recalling the events: “I can say it without thinking.”
Nicky’s family is very supportive in his athletic pursuits. Rugby is demanding, with training two nights a week and matches on Sundays for 8 to 9 months each year.
Nicky’s father Johnny, who moved from Fuijan to Ireland, often picks him up and often goes to games, supporting him all the way.