David Lyons on life after Rugby
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By Pete Fairbairn, 07.12.17

At next week’s Volvo RUPA Awards lunch, David Lyons will be one of more than 20 players present who are recognised for achieving the feat of 100 Super Rugby caps; only 50 Australians have ever reached this mark.

After 105 caps for the Waratahs and 46 for the Wallabies, Lyons left Australian shores at the end of the 2008 season and played for a further six years in Wales and France, racking up over 150 appearances for Scarlets and Stade Francais.

We asked him to tell us what he’s up to since hanging up the boots three years ago, to pass on any advice he has for current players when it comes to transition, and gauged his thoughts on the Wallabies’ chances at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Over to you, David…

“I returned to Australia from France just over eighteen months ago, and have quickly found myself busy in a number of different areas.

With my wife Justine, we started French Vine, an importer, distributer and retailer of French wine nationally.  Through French Vine, we offer a curated selection of quintessentially French wines that weren’t previously available in Australia. We pride ourselves on our ability to present them in an approachable way for all to enjoy.

I’ve also continued investing time and money in property development, which is something I have always been into even when I was playing, and also recently I have moved into a full-time role with Fund Management Company Blue Sky .

I have had a long association with Blue Sky, Australia’s largest listed diversified alternative asset manager. I am now working full-time, based out of our Sydney office. What we basically do is give investors the ability to invest directly into private market opportunities such as private equity, agriculture and real estate.

Previously in Australia, this was purely the pursuit of the super-rich, however importantly we’re trying to change that. Traditionally in Australia, we have been so focused on investing in listed equities that we’ve sort of neglected this avenue but what we do is a very common thing overseas and Australians are certainly starting to cotton on to this a bit more; if any past or current players want advice in these areas, I’m more than happy to have a chat.

The Rugby network is great like that, and since I have been back in Australia I’ve touched base with a lot of people who I hadn’t seen for nearly ten years and caught up for a beer or a coffee. I did keep in touch with a lot of people within the Rugby network while I was abroad, and I was still investing in business and exploring other opportunities back here as well, but I have really enjoyed re-establishing relationships.

I think it’s a big thing that the Australian Rugby network is so close; it makes it a lot easier to do business with each other when you already trust the other party!

That’s not just former teammates either, it’s other people associated with Rugby at both a professional and grassroots level too. Guys like Mitchell Taylor, who is a big supporter of Rugby through Taylors Wines, have given me a lot of really solid advice.

It will come as a surprise to nobody that I am still involved in Rugby too! I am on the Foundation Boards and Investment Committee at Sydney University, and I also do some special commentary and media work. I did a lot of that in Europe, and I really enjoy it although I don’t have as much time for that as I would like at the moment.

To be honoured as one of 50 Centurions at the RUPA Awards Lunch, and see so many former teammates, is something I am really looking forward to. I can still remember what a proud moment it was at the time I reached the milestone. I will never ever forget that day, receiving my 100th Cap in front of a full Sydney Football Stadium.

Three of my fellow Centurions have recently hung up the boots after long and distinguished careers; Matt Hodgson, Stephen Moore and Dean Mumm. They have all, in different ways, had huge influence on their teams and the game in Australia. You can’t underestimate what committing to a Club for over 100 games means; it’s like a marriage to your Club. I wish them all the very best for their transitions into life after Rugby, and I’m just a phone call away if they ever want to have a chat.

If I was to give any advice to players preparing for the end of their career, it would be to not wait until the final couple of years that they’re playing to prepare but to involve yourself in pursuits outside of Rugby right from the beginning. As a Rugby player, you don’t work the same number of hours as you do in the business world, so I would encourage players to use their time off wisely and invest in their future through actions such as studying, gaining work experience and expanding their personal networks.

It’s important to not only identify as a Rugby player, as playing sport professionally will actually represent quite a small portion of your working life.

For me, I loved playing Rugby, but it is just one of the pieces in the jigsaw that makes me a person and has made up my life thus far. As a matter of fact, it is not always the best thing for your Rugby career either to throw all your eggs in that one basket.

Looking ahead to the Rugby World Cup in just under two years’ time, I’m positive about the Wallabies’ progression. There has obviously been some fluctuation in Wallaby performances this year, but I have seen some good signs of improvement and I think we are still in a little bit of an experimentation phase.

I believe that Michael Cheika will settle a little bit more on his best team and strongest squad next year, and that will allow us to build on combinations which will bring consistency.

That win against the All Blacks in Brisbane; the intensity we displayed in that game is something we haven’t seen in a long time, and if we can replicate that on an ongoing basis we will be in very good shape at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

I love the way Michael Hooper goes about it, the effort he puts in and the way that he leads from the front, and I think that Bernard Foley has really matured into a world-class number 10. I’m excited to see where this team could get to in the years to come.”

If you’d like to connect with David Lyons, you can email him on dlyons@blueskyfunds.com.au.

07.12.17
Pete Fairbairn
Communications Manager
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