HAVING grown up in Sydney’s North Shore, Jack Dempsey admits to being slightly dubious about the prospect of enduring a Scottish winter, and that sense of unease has not been helped by some of his new team-mates.
“A few of the lads have given me some horror stories,” reveals the 27-year-old back-rower, who arrived in the west of Scotland in June to start a two-year contract with Glasgow Warriors. “I think they’re trying to scare me before the winter comes.
“Whenever I’ve been in the UK before it was always in October or early November [on tour] and even then I’m absolutely freezing my arse off. Apparently, it gets even colder after that … and that was me dealing with it for one or two weeks compared to two years!
“Lewis Bean [the second-row who spent several months on loan with the club last season and has now signed a longer-term contract] told me: ‘you come in to work and it’s dark, you train in the dark and then you leave in the dark’ … that scares me a little bit, if I’m honest,” he adds.
“But it’s about throwing yourself in the deep-end and growing as a person and a rugby player. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
It’s an interesting theme which he returns to throughout the interview. His decision to come to Glasgow means he is now highly unlikely to add to the 14 caps for Australia he accumulated between June 2017 and October 2019 – at least until he returns home – but he feels in his bones that carrying on down the same path of least resistance would have done his chances of battling back into the International frame no good anyway.
“There were a lot of reasons [why he chose to switch from the Waratahs to the Warriors] but the main one would be that from an individual point of view as a rugby player I was feeling I had plateaued over the last couple of years,” explains Dempsey, who is called ‘John’ on his birth certificate but arrived in this world in such a hurry that he bumped his head during delivery and ended up with two black eyes, prompting his sporting father to unofficially name him Jack after the American heavyweight boxing champion of the 1920s.
“You have to be playing well at club level to get into the national side, and I was lucky enough to play in the  World Cup, but coming out of that I didn’t think I was growing as much as I could and should.
“It made me want to get more experiences. Then, once I made that decision, I started looking at clubs, and when the opportunity to come to Glasgow arose it ticked all the right boxes. It just felt like the right fit.”
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So, what can a guy like Dempsey get out of a club like Glasgow Warriors, and a head coach like Danny Wilson?
“The most obvious thing is that the weather is a lot more drastic here and taking care of the ball is going to be crucial,” he replies. “How much more valuable line-out drives and scrum domination is, that’s something I am looking forward to growing more into my game.
“Rather than just being a ball-carrier and a flat-out jackler of the ball, I want to be a line-out option and be able to fulfil a number of different roles.
“I know from being on the phone to Danny when I was back home, and from speaking to people who have worked with him before, that he is very good at the technical aspects of the set-piece, so that’s what excites me most about this opportunity.”
While Dempsey is keen to develop the technical side of his game, he knows that he needs two keep delivering the things which caught Wilson’s eye in the first place.
“Danny is a pretty black and white operator from what I’ve seen so far,” says the player. “He’s told me that he likes my explosive ball-carries and my ability to turnover ball in the breakdowns, and he’s looking for me to add depth in the back-row by doing that.
“The history that Glasgow has with fast-paced footie – with quick ruck speed – is something which very much suits my game. So, it is kind of a combination of wanting a character like me to add depth and being that tool in the tool chest within the back-row, but also I do suit the identity and style that Glasgow want to play as well.”
An extra bonus for Dempsey is that there is a strong familial bond with the city through Andrew Prentice, his maternal grandfather.
“He was born and raised in Glasgow, and he met my grandmother, who was Australian, over here. They moved to out in the sticks of Western Sydney, and bought this little shed which my grandad built into the house my mum was brought up in.
“It was our childhood home, where we went for Christmas and Easter. My memories are of him being out the back, digging holes and building stuff. He was very hands-on, and he had this really thick Glaswegian accent.
“He passed away when I was 12 but I was lucky to have that in my life and now I’m meeting his whole family over here. I was taken out by my cousins to where he grew up and everything like that on my first weekend here. It’s good to have that connection.
“I think the oldest surviving relative is 91,” he added. “I haven’t met her yet but apparently she is a bit of a rugby nut so hopefully we can get the whole clan together and watch a bit of rugby.
“Also, speaking to my mum back home, she learned about it all when she was growing up and she loves that ancestry stuff, but she has never got to come over here so once Covid finishes up hopefully she will get that chance.”