When Sarra met Chris Ashton
September 5, 2012
Schalk Brits ambushes Chris Ashton while he speaks to ESPN's Sarra Elgan © Getty Images
Producer: "Sarra - do you like roller coasters?..."
Of course he does, because a roller coaster isn't just a fairground attraction that consists of a railway track with many tight turns and steep slopes on which people ride in small, fast open carriage. Oh no, in the dictionary it reads: 'roller coaster': "Any phenomenon, period, or experience of persistent ups and downs, wild and unpredictable changes, fluctuating between elation and despair."
Chris, as is the case with most sportsmen, could relate to such "periods" and "experiences" in his career - it's what drives them, pushes them to greatness while at the same time feeding the thrill seeking side of their personalities. So it shouldn't really have come as a surprise that Chris was more than happy to participate in our 'day out'!
I really enjoy shooting my weekly films as part of our match day coverage - it gives me the opportunity to get to know the players a little better, and it's also an opportunity for them to show the great rugby watching public sides their personalities that don't often come across through their actions during a game or in post match interviews directly after it.
So Chris Ashton was this week's player in question. He is one player that I'm sure most English rugby fans think they know pretty well. Let's face it he hasn't had the best of press in recent times- hair pulling, Jim Mallinder bashing, swan diving; the list goes on. So it would be pretty easy to form an opinion on the Saracens winger.
Even before our 'day out' I was not completely convinced that Chris was this wild, bad lad that the papers would have you believe - I'm a great believer in 'speak as you find' and each time I have interviewed Chris post-match he has always been very approachable and ready to speak. So I went to the shoot with an open mind.
From the moment he arrived he was laid back, relaxed, polite, happy and willing to do all that our producer asked of him. Both him and his agent Andi Peters (yes that Andi Peters - the legend that is, and my childhood hero!) went along with everything - there was no subject out of bounds and no questions we were told to steer clear of. There were no mobile phone interruptions, no "can we hurry up please I need to be somewhere else in an hour" - he was quite happy to stay for as long as it took to get everything we wanted, he even put up with my incredibly annoying, high pitch screaming on every roller coaster we went on! To be fair the only bad thing about Chris were his trainers! They were far too white and far too clean, but at the same time very trendy I'm sure!
Chris Ashton talks to Sarra after scoring two tries on his Sarries debut%]
We chatted about a lot of things besides sport - from recent vacations to the merits of tattoos (of which I have none!) but it was when talking about rugby that he really lit up. He is quite clearly in a good place right now - he spoke about lessons learned both on and off field during the World Cup, his relationship with Mallinder, people's hatred of the 'ash splash', his excitement on joining Saracens, and even joked about them "actually scoring tries in training"!
Now look I don't profess to know Chris very well - but what I (and indeed all of our crew after spending the day with him) will say is that he is a very likable young man! (Gosh I sound old!) But he is only 25 - he doesn't try too hard to be liked - what you see is what you get, and he really seems to be as he says on his Twitter page - "a good lad"!
He has certainly made an impression in Sarries colours - a brace of tries on your competitive debut 'isn't bad' - but I'm sure he is (as are all the Premiership players) ready for another season of ups and downs, twist and turns and highs and lows. After all - life is a "roller coaster", you just have to hold on and enjoy the ride!
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Sarra Elgan is an ESPN roving reporter