Honda Heat and Wallabies winger, Digby Ioane: “He is always there, the man upstairs is always there!”

We spoke to Honda Heat’s winger, Digby Ioane to find out more behind the Aussies’ Rugby career and Christian faith.

Digby, let’s start with where you are right now, what’s next for you in the competitive calendar?

“Well I’m in Japan at the moment with Honda. I’ve got two months left; we’ve got about six games left. There’s a big Tens competition going on in February next year in Brisbane and I’m going down there to play with the Crusaders. My next chapter though is to go to Christ Church to represent the Crusaders.”

How are you enjoying this chapter at the moment with Honda Heat? Used to the culture?

“It’s really different. I’m really grateful to be travelling round the World. It’s something I love doing. It’s great to be a part of something I love doing. It doesn’t last that long but you know it’s a gift of what I’m good at.”

Can you explain to us how you got to know God yourself?

“Well, my background is Catholic. I didn’t know anything about religion. All I knew was that you go to Church on Sundays. My Dad made all of us go to Church on a Sunday. As you grow up, you get to know the meaning of God, the good Gospel and the Bible and stuff. It’s just as if things crept in and you just learn every Sunday about God and Jesus. I went to Catholic school and we learnt a lot of things about Catholic faith and spreading the good news of Jesus.

My Mum and Dad were really strong in that part and so I’m grateful for them and for them showing me the way and the path of my career. If it wasn’t for the man upstairs I wouldn’t be doing what I love doing. I think at some stage you do get a bit stressed out with too much things, especially when you’re playing Super Rugby, but I always pray when I’m at my worst and when things are going good. You’ve always got to be grateful for what you have, because worse things could happen. I’m grateful for what I have and for what I love doing.”

Knowing God, how has he impacted you career?

“You just know he’s always around. I think I was in Year 11 and I had a scholarship to Uterus and my Mum told me when I left, if you’re feeling down or anything, she’s going to be around, but I was in a different state, I was in Queensland, about two hours away, and she just told me to say my prayers. I used to cry and stuff nearly every day, because I was homesick and the only person I could turn to was God.

You’ve got to sacrifice a lot and my biggest sacrifice was leaving my family and that’s where the only person you can talk to is the man upstairs. Ever since then things just fell into place. You set yourself goals but you need a formal relationship with the guy upstairs. If things go too bad or things go too well for you, you’ve still got to give thanks to God for blessing you with these opportunities. I still give thanks for the past and for my career and stuff. I just get used to it, I don’t know how to explain it, and it’s a part of me. I’m still very fortunate to be playing the game and if it wasn’t for the guy upstairs, as I’ve said, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Who is the best player you have ever played against and why?

“That’s a hard one; there’s a lot of good players. Oh there’s Bryan Habana and Joe Rockocoko.

There’s a lot of guys that are challenges. Someone like Shane Williams, he is one of those great wingers that I love. I think for those past players that have retired, for me, every player that I’ve played against is hard- I can’t give you one, because you’re playing at a top level and everyone’s different and everyone is a good player, so I actually don’t have one.”

What’s the best thing about playing on the wing in your eyes?

“Playing on the wing, it gives you that freedom of doing what you want to do. It gives you a licence to pop up anywhere. Say if a forward is getting tired and stuff, you can like sniff around and just look for holes and talk to your number nine and number ten, and just popping up in different places. People always think that a winger is to stay and wait for the ball, and a lot of wingers are like that, but it depends on what kind of number ten you’re playing with. Especially the All Blacks, I love how they just get the ball out- it depends on your team. I just love having that freedom and roaming anywhere, that’s what I love about wing.

You can play centre, but you’ve got to be more structured to the back to organise, whereas winger it’s just a completely different scene. You just run around and do what you want to do. You get to explore where the space is and have that good relationship with your half-back and your number nine and number ten.”

You’ve represented your national team, The Wallabies, over thirty times, is this one of your proudest achievements?

“Yeah it’s playing at the highest level you can possibly be to be honest. The greatest moment was winning 2011 Super Rugby and playing for Australia and having that taste of the 2011 World Cup. I didn’t even plan to leave Australia, I just left to be honest. It wasn’t like I left because of my performance or anything. I’m a big believer, I don’t argue, I just move on. Life just takes you everywhere. I believe everything happens for a reason. I didn’t know I would be in Japan.

I think you learn things about yourself when you go on your own. I’ve got no regrets leaving Australia, I’m just very fortunate to be travelling around the World with my Mrs. The next step is New Zealand. Things happen in life, and you just can’t help that. If that’s going to be a part, you’ve got to follow your heart and say thanks to the man upstairs. You’ve got to go through the motions and just enjoy life.”

How do you use the sporting platform that God has given you to point people towards him?

“I don’t really show it. I say my prayers before a game. You don’t need to show people that you’re a believer I guess if they already know you. For me, it’s just a prayer before a game. My biggest concern is injuries- that’s the worst thing that could happen to anyone. I always say thanks to God that I’m not injured and that he’s looking after me after and before games. He is always there, the man upstairs is always there.”

Do you have any fellow Christian players that you connect with?

“The South Africans are really onto their Christian stuff. You’ve got people like Morne Steyn and Bryan Habana. All the South Africans I’ve met love their faith; they have Bible studies. They invited me to come when I was in Paris. They always have a group of boys doing Bible studies. For me the guys I’ve been playing with is the South Africans; they show a lot of love to the man upstairs. There’s like other nationalities as well- the Fiji boys, the islanders. I think it changes, the generations people play with each other. For me I think it’s the South Africans. Nearly every South Africa person I meet, they are a Christian, which is great to see.”

Away from Rugby, what do you like to do?

“I love to train! I try to go back and see my family. I love to do things I love doing. I love cars and I’m just trying to figure out what I’m going to do next in my career and leave it to the man upstairs. I’m just enjoying Rugby at the moment. After playing, there’s a lot more things you can do in the game and working in a different environment.”

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