23 Oct 2022
Fit-again Olds seizing unexpected opportunity
The Wales ace hung up his boots in 2020 but is enjoying his comeback on the big stage
By Paul Martin
Ollie Olds’ road to the Rugby League World Cup has taken him to hell and back but the Wales star is soaking up every second of his unexpected redemption story.
Olds hung up his boots in 2020 after a string of serious injuries which took a physical and mental toll on the scrum-half, who began to focus his sporting attentions on triathlon with rugby league seemingly in the rear-view mirror.
That was until he accepted an invitation from his brother, James, to begin training alongside him with Australian outfit Valley Diehards.
He soon had the footy bug back and, within a matter of months, both Olds brothers were selected in Wales’ World Cup squad.
Only Ollie featured in their Group D opener and he marked his tournament debut in style, dazzling the Cook Islands’ defence with a dummy which took him over for Wales’ second try.
A second-half fightback denied John Kear’s side a famous victory but Olds’ journey to this point has equipped him with a perspective which lets him see the bigger picture.
“I’d had an ACL, three reconstructions on the same knee and two ankle surgeries – the doctors said I should retire,” he said.
“The toll it can take on your mind made it a struggle for a while. I hit some forms of depression and questioned my identity a lot in those situations.
“I’ve always said that tough times don’t last but tough people do and here I am today, playing in a World Cup and here to tell the story.
“When my brother asked me to come down and have a game with them earlier this year, my first thought was ‘no chance’.
“I was happy doing other things – I was doing triathlons, running, and thought ‘I can’t get hurt here’.
“But after a couple of sessions back in league, I enjoyed it and wanted to keep playing in the team with my brother. Having missed two World Cups because of my injuries, this was an opportunity I had to take.”
The last Men's side to proudly perform their anthem, Wales sing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.#RLWC2021 | #WALCKI | @WalesRugbyL pic.twitter.com/90HNaeiPIZ
— Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) October 19, 2022
The Olds are among three pairs of brothers in a tight-knit Welsh squad who delivered, in Kear’s words, their “best performance in a long, long time” in Wednesday night’s opener.
Their attentions now turn to Tonga, who lie in wait at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Monday, with Olds feeling emboldened by his side’s Round 1 display as he plots an upset.
“We can take a lot of confidence into the Tonga game,” he said.
“Sometimes we put the southern hemisphere teams on a pedestal but if we can realise we can mix it with them, it takes them off that perch a bit. We are just as good as them at times, if not better.”
If Olds is pinching himself at the fact he’s appearing on the global stage, the cherry on the cake will now be doing so alongside his brother.
Both featured in the warm-up defeat against Lebanon and are in line to secure a synchronised World Cup appearance in St Helens after James was drafted into Kear’s 19-man matchday squad.
“We have been in Australia together over 10 years and being selected in this squad makes us so much closer as brothers,” he said.
“I’m there to support him just as much as he is for me. We just want to make our family proud.”
The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets