BJB takes on Kiwis in 300th career appearance
Making your 300th career appearance is a massive achievement in any sport.
Making it against the number one team in the world is something else entirely.
That is the prospect awaiting Eagles winger Ben Jones-Bishop at the weekend as he puts on the Jamaica shirt for their second group game of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, against none other than New Zealand.
It has been a brilliant journey for Jones-Bishop, who had a sparkling season at Sheffield this term with 23 tries in 29 appearances.
Up until the start of last year, BJB had always been a full-time professional with a Super League career that began in 2008 with Leeds Rhinos and spanned three other clubs.
He reflects on that first career appearance, for Leeds against Celtic Crusaders in the Challenge Cup, by saying: “I was playing for my hometown team who I used to go and watch in the South Stand so to get to play with my heroes at the time was pretty surreal,”
“It went by so fast, a Friday night game with a great atmosphere. It was one that I really enjoyed it.
“From 2008 to now, it’s a fair amount of time.
“There have been some ups and downs but I’ve enjoyed my time, still happy to be performing and enjoying games like this.”
In the lead-up to Saturday’s game against New Zealand, Jones-Bishop’s former coach Brian McClennan sent a good luck message.
"It was good to hear his voice again,” said BJB.
“He gave me my debut and I remember those early years of being a young member around the first team.
“That was the start of a great period for the Rhinos, the Grand Finals and Challenge Cup Finals were coming.
“I was lucky to be rubbing shoulders with those players, getting experience of being in and around the squad while playing in some big games.”
It’s no surprise that Jones-Bishop’s transition to Championship rugby league has been a success, considering the Super League systems he has played in.
Director of Rugby Mark Aston has lauded the winger throughout the season for his individual performances but also the partnership with Kris Welham and Anthony Thackeray.
Discussing the professionalism he shows around the camp, Jones-Bishop added: “It’s all I’ve known,”
“I went into an outfit like Leeds, a team like that and a club like that, with players not getting weeks off because you’re playing almost every round of campaigns in the playoffs, Challenge Cup etc.
“As you get older, you learn to look after yourself a bit better and if you want some longevity that’s what you have to do. You need to recover well whilst enjoying yourself when the time is right.
“Sheffield has been great too. It’s been good to play with other experienced players. The right edge we’ve got, we’re all pretty experienced so when you throw the youth in as well it does keep you on your toes.”
Jamaica lost 48-2 in their opening World Cup game to Ireland and as much as things don’t get any easier, Jones-Bishop is proud to be putting on the Reggae Warriors jersey and also getting to play alongside his brother, Aaron.
“It’s massive,” he said about the upcoming Kiwis clash.
“Last week was big, the first game in the World Cup and it’s the first time me and my brother had played in the same team on English soil.
“It was a great occasion for all my family to be there and this one will be exactly the same. Against one of the best teams in the world, it’ll be a big test but one we look forward to and will be able to look back on with great memories.”
By Dan Fowler, photo by Leeds Rhinos