By Harry McLusky
Hampton School’s ‘TALK!’ program has seen speakers from all backgrounds standing on the stage of the Hammond Theatre and sharing their experiences with boys and parents alike. From politics to journalism, to medicine and rugby, the opportunities offered by the program are invaluable.
However, one event particularly stood out to me personally. On Thursday 10th November, we were fortuitous enough to enjoy 90 minutes of captivating conversation between Australian Rugby great, Michael Lynagh; upcoming star and Old Hamptonian, Louis Lynagh OH (2019); and a fellow Old Hamptonian and The Times Deputy Rugby Correspondent, Will Kelleher OH (2010).
Having spoken to Kelleher before the event, his memories of Hampton have certainly not faded away. Having been editor of the Hampton Sports Chronicle from 2009 to the end of his time at the school, he had an almost tangible appreciation for the opportunities this provided him, as it helped boost him on to journalistic success in later life.
Kelleher reminisced on Mr Peter Smith, the former head of the Hampton Sports Chronicle, before his departure in 2019. Furthermore, he was certainly impressed by the technological developments the HSC have taken over the past decade, chiefly, the transition from ‘newspaper-style prints’ to the glossy magazine-style adopted for our annual publication, as well as the HSC website, through which many of you will be reading this right now.
Kelleher’s contribution to the school unquestionably didn’t go amiss, receiving the Dennis King Cup upon his farewell. This is awarded to leavers who have committed much of their time and effort to the school with loyalty, modesty and efficiency.
Moving forward, Kelleher’s success in the journalism industry is inspirational to say the least. At the young age of 29, he has already achieved monumental feats for various publications in the UK. His career was kickstarted in 2015, by the renowned Daily Mail, with Kelleher reporting on a wide range of rugby news, from player-specific articles to Fiji’s chances in the England Rugby World Cup in 2015.
His clear talent in journalism earned him a grand promotion to Deputy Rugby Correspondent at the Times, in January 2022. As of the time of writing, Kelleher has published three articles in the past 24 hours, primarily due to the uncertain future of the England National Team, following the sacking of head coach Eddie Jones.
Kelleher’s fascination towards Michael and Louis Lynagh during the talk, as well as their shared passion for the sport of rugby, was recognisable even from the distant heights of the balcony, from where I was watching the event. He guided the conversation perfectly, covering all topics of the collective careers of the two fearsome rugby players beside him.
Louis Lynagh was of particular interest to many Hamptonians, many of whom he has already inspired through accomplishments after leaving Hampton in 2019. His time at school certainly catalysed his climb to success, with Lynagh’s reflections upon his favourite school moments, exemplifying his gratitude, as well as his enjoyment of Hampton school life.
Most of all, Lynagh drew upon an intense game against Dulwich College in October 2018- Louis’ last year at the school. Under the captaincy of Lynagh, the 1st XV was trailing with seconds to go in the 2nd Round of the National Cup.
However, Hampton’s typical resilience, perseverance, and determination led to a spectacular moment in the dying embers of the match. Lynagh described the elation felt as substitute, James Thompson crossed the try line, and wheeled off in celebration against the backdrop of a packed crowd, jubilant with the feeling of triumph over an arch-rival.
Lynagh described this as his ‘most memorable Hampton moment,’ and with good reason. Although Hampton eventually succumbed to Hurstpierpoint in the quarter-final; the feeling of victory can never be underestimated.
Indeed, Lynagh commented that he felt a certain ‘anticipation to return to Hampton’ for the talk in November, further manifesting the nostalgia that is present here for him and thousands of other Old Hamptonians, including his interviewer, Will Kelleher.
On the contrary, Michael Lynagh, perhaps one of the most successful Australian rugby players of all time, shared little recollection of these memories. Having grown up in Brisbane, Australia, Michael started his career at the University of Queensland in 1982. His brief stint in English rugby with Saracens between 1996 and 1998, included his famous last-minute drop-goal to win a tight match against the Newcastle Falcons in 1998.
However, nothing during his club career could possibly match his contribution for his country. Lynagh received 72 caps for Australia, scoring 911 points in the process (the highest figure ever after his international retirement in 1995), and winning the World Cup in 1991 (a feat we all hope Louis may be able to match in the near future with England).
The topic of international representation was prominent during the talk, with Michael particularly reminiscing on re-watching the 1991 World Cup Final with his son, as a way to persuade him into following in his footsteps in the yellow and green of the Wallabies.
Despite this brief inducement, Louis Lynagh showed appreciation towards his father’s lack of forcefulness with regards to his rugby career. Perhaps, his relaxed attitude towards his son helped to morph Louis’s perception of the game, which was perfectly summed up by his word of advice to one current Hamptonian.
In response to their question regarding the mindset he adopts towards improvement, he declared that you shouldn’t ‘forget about what you’re super good at. By focussing on what you’re not so good at, when they catch up to the things you are great at, you’re a completely balanced player’.
This mindset was also taken into training, with Louis committing ‘the same effort into Hampton and Harlequins’.
Louis’s mentality is just one reason behind his great successes in the past years, including his crucial two late tries against Exeter (at Twickenham) in the Premiership final of 2021, and his subsequent call-up to the England training squad later that year.
Although Louis is currently injured, he assured us that he was well on the road to recovery, and we can not wait to see where his talent takes him in the future.
With the France 2023 World Cup on the horizon, the race is on. However, no matter the outcome, it is undoubtable that Louis’s feats on the rugby pitch are an inspiration to all Hamptonians.
This is matched off the field by Will Kelleher, and, with both being at such a young age, the opportunities for their careers are endless.
We would like to thank Michael, Louis and Will for a fantastic talk, and wish them well for the future, hopefully full of rugby achievements both on and off the field.