Josh Dickson - Old Boy and good all round southern man

By Rugby News | Posted: Thursday May 25, 2017

Josh Dickson knows he made the right choice when confronted with rugby or basketball as his sport of choice. The 2m lock has Otago rugby blood running through his veins, and thats the direction he chose coming out of the great southern rugby nursery Otago Boys High School.

“For a young fellow who’s made his way through it is pretty cool. It has been a dream since I was at school. It is pretty cool going out there every day and doing what you love,” he says.

While his rugby started at Mt Aspiring College in Wanaka, where he grew up, it was heading into Year 12 that he got a scholarship to play rugby at Otago Boys’ High School. That was where coach Ryan Martin provided a taste of what a full time rugby commitment involved. “He’s a good coach, and he shows the boys what it is like to be professional, and it is quite a professional environment at that age. He pushes the boys pretty hard, and he talks to you about nutrition and recovery, and all to become a better athlete in general.” He also impressed on the players the need for a work ethic.

“It was a bit of an eye opener on how hard you had to work if you want to make it. It didn’t put me off at all, and I enjoyed it. I could see the little work-ons I needed to do, and you could see improvements week by week or month by month, and it was quite addictive, so I kept playing, which was good.”

He was 2m tall at the age of 16, but has never grown beyond that. With that height, it is no surprise that basketball was on his resume and he played in the OBHS First V, and at the end of his last year he weighed up whether to take the rugby or basketball route with rugby winning out simply because he enjoyed it more.

“I felt like there was more of a brotherhood feeling in rugby and while basketball was good fun, I leant towards the rugby side because I enjoyed it more.”

Sam Dickson who made the NZ Schools team last year, is his young brother and heading down the same route.

“I was 95kg coming out of school, but my point of difference was, I like to think, I was a lot fitter than other big locks, so I was getting around the park, doing a lot more work at club level. The physicality will come. A lot of it is mental, so I work on just mentally preparing myself for a game.”

He’s been trying to increase weight for five or six years. He’s up to 110kg now, but more beef is still wanted on him, to compete with the big men in Super Rugby, and the goal is at least another 5kg. “It is a slow process, I don’t want to eat a lot of crapy food and put on a lot of fat. I want to put on that good weight of muscle, so it takes time and a lot of gym work. I’m used to it now; I’ve been doing it for a while.

“Obviously I have to eat a lot of food, and I get sick of food quite quickly. So I’m always changing up my dies, but on a night before a game, I need a lot of carbs, so I would usually have a chicken pasta.”

Dickson has a deep interest in personal training and is doing papers at Otago Polytechnic. He wants to help people who want to better themselves and improve their health.

For a young player stepping into professional rugby, it is always helpful to have support close at hand, and Josh is making the most of the experienced core of locks at the Highlanders. Tom Franklin was an early influence on him when he joined the Otago academy. “I just tried to learn as much as I could off him, particularly in the lineout. He knows a lot about the lineout and is pretty clued up in that department. I just asked him lots of questions and tried to get as much as possible out of those sorts of guys as I could”.

“Alex Ainley is a bloody good bugger, and he works bloody hard, and I admire that. He gets around the park, he’s everywhere, and he gets into everything. “Joe Wheeler, Franklin and Ainley they’ve been around for a few years now, and they know how things work and especially with the Highlanders’ way and how we work. It’s pretty good brotherhood, and I’m enjoying it,” he says.

Lock is one position where the transition as you move through the grades can be tough. “It was a big step up from schoolboy rugby to club rugby. There were bigger guys, and they were more physical, but probably not as fast as in school rugby, but just more physical”.

It was an eye-opener. The Otago Mire 10 Cup side is another step up, physical and it is fast. You really have to make your decision quickly when you’re making a call and knowing your role within a team is crucial. If everyone is doing their individual role as a collective unit, it makes things a lot easier, and as a team, you should perform.” For the moment it is about observing and absorbing.

“I just want to learn as much as I can, develop as a player, working with Tony Brown, Mark Hammett, Scott McLeod and Clarke Dermody, and put as much as I can into the team to help the team achieve that goal of winning the championship again.