TV Review: ‘Jamie Peacock: Legend of League’

Watching ‘Jamie Peacock: Legend of League’ on Sky Sports was an enjoyable experience, but one was left with a sense of disappointment too.

For a figure of such stature, it seemed a little worthy, a little safe, while only at times giving us the kind of seering insight which takes such documentaries to another level.

Sporting biograhpies of any kind sometimes tend towards hagiography, and this is no different really.

We are treated to a pretty straightforward narrative relating Jamie Peacock‘s journey from rangy newcomer to rugby league saint, which is certainly informative, but low on insight.

The programme provides a professional and competent account of his life, without ever being especially memorable.

Instead, particularly early on, we are treated to some standard sporting buzz phrases which crop up time and again in relation to Peacock. Various rugby league eminences trot out stuff like “Stubborn”, “It can be done”, “Warrior. Gentlemen. Legend” in relation to Peacock’s career.

We learn a lot about what kind of person he is, and what he is planning to do, but very little about where that ferocious drive and ambition comes from. What is Peacock’s motivation for all this? We are still guessing by the end of the show.

Instead, the story seems to be about how greatness mysteriously chose this unpromising youngster, and, like some magical hero on a quest, he became great, almost inevitably.

Thankfully, the audience are treated to slightly more insightful stuff in the second and third sections of the programme.

What is interesting is how unpromising Peacock seemed as a youngsters, his biometrics being compared to a Thunderbird puppet by Brian Noble.

But before gain any real insight into how JP overcame this, we are back to the Peacock cliches, that his career was a triumph of will more than ability and skill  – that it all came down to mental strength and determination, to his monomaniacal desire to do well, to be the hardest trainer, the toughest player.

If you’re a fan of Peacock, you’ll be a fan of this, as you will if you like Leeds, because there is a lot of time spent on their treble winning achievements of 2015.

The second part of the programme is the strongest, with the focus switching to specific games, such as the 2007 Grand Final.

The details about preparation for those games, and incidents within them, are genuinely interesting, and the programme could have done with more of it.

Brian McDermott is also a star of the show, with his interventions become increasingly cerebral and insightful as the programme progresses.

Talk of Peacock’s father is genuinely moving, and the effect of his dad’s passing from cancer is clear on the Leeds legend as he speaks about him. We begin to see the emotion that lies under the player’s drive.

Also interesting is Peacock speaking candidly about the depression he felt after being part of the Great Britain team which lost 64-10 to Australia in 2002. But it is almost bolted into the show as an afterthought, like someone squeezed it in almost as a token discussion of mental health.

But the programme does hit the mark when JP speaks about the violence and toughness that exists at the heart of playing prop.

Peacock is candid about wanting to hurt people, in a sporting context, and about the compelling brutality that has always lain at the heart of our game, something which may make followers of other codes a little squeamish.

Certainly, when compared to soccer’s mealy mouthed treatment of the more intimidatory aspects of sport, it is extremely refreshing to hear.

Peacock’s summing up of rugby league’s virtues at the end of the prpgramme is also inspiring and moving.

Overall, this is a solid and informative documentary, slickly made and well presented. By the end, we know a lot of what Peacock is, but very little about why he is what he is.

When the lid is lifted, on Peacock’s father’s illness and Peacock’s own depression, though, it closes again too quickly.

Hopefully future biographies can tease out more of the motivation which makes this rugby league warrior such a driven and ambitious man.

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