Peats tweets up a storm but his social impact greater in real life

The beauty of a guy like Nathan Peats is everybody has a story.

My first interview with Peats was after he’d led the South Sydney under 20s to the grand final in 2010 and was making his way into the top grade a year later.

Even then he spoke of head noise and how introducing a dog into his one-bedroom inner city apartment had kept him from constantly pacing the hallways.

Watch him train and the Titans hooker is as demanding of those around him as he is of himself.

Only last week he stormed off at the end of a session when his team had lost heavily in a game of force-em-backs and on Wednesday declared a win in the same game was "the best feeling ever".

He keeps those around him honest, and no one is safe.

His Twitter followers will know that there are many sides to the Peats personality.

His insights into the minutiae of everyday life can be genuinely funny. Sometimes angry "Nathy" rears his head.

Former teammates such as Darcy Lussick, Brad Takairangi and Konrad Hurrell are regular targets and then there are the heartfelt messages to his partner Jade and his mother, Pamela.

Peats will on Saturday play his 150th game in the NRL, a broken neck, torn pec and ACL among nine surgeries in nine years.

He jokes not everyone who plays hooker can be like Cameron Smith but everyone who has played with him – and against him – knows there is only one Nathan Peats.

"There’s too many blow-ups to remember them all," says Rabbitohs half Adam Reynolds, whose father Mark and Peats’s father Geordi were such good friends that the boys would often have sleepovers as youngsters.

"I do remember playing this game when we were kids where you kick the ball through the posts and if it hits the ground it’s a point. We were forever playing that through the juniors and even when we came into the first-grade squad.

"I got the points on him one day and he wasn’t too happy with me. He’s forever holding a grudge match against someone until he gets the better of them."

Dragons five-eighth Corey Norman, who played alongside Peats at Parramatta for three years from 2014 conceded "at the start it was a love-hate relationship between me and Peatsy".

"To be honest, he was walking around like a grumpy old man. He used to come in, rip in at training, do weights and then head home. He just did things on his own, got in and got out for the first six months. That was just Peatsy when he came to Parra.

"We were training for Nines in 2014 and me and Haynesy [Jarryd Hayne] were getting into him in one of the drills.

"We were carving him up. We were laughing at him and this was when he was still very new to the team and very Peatsy. He spat the dummy, threw the ball and walked off the field. He hated losing and when people rubbed it in his face he didn’t really like it.

"He had a pretty short fuse when I first met him but the next couple of years he relaxed a bit and wasn’t so hard on himself.

Nathan Peats and Adam Reynolds representing Souths in the under 20s grand final in 2010.
Nathan Peats and Adam Reynolds representing Souths in the under 20s grand final in 2010. ©NRL Photos

"He’s a very deep thinker about the simplest situations and sometimes he can do his own head in.

"Seeing him now, he’s a lot different to when he first came to Parra."

Titans prop Jarrod Wallace considers it an honour to run out alongside Peats in his milestone game on Saturday but has a vastly different memory of playing against him in their days in the under 20s.

"We played a semi-final here on the Coast and we were up the whole game and they beat us just at the end and the whole game he was an absolute germ," Wallace recalled of the 24-22 qualifying final loss.

"He was into us the whole time and pestering us but when you've actually got him on your team, you just love everything about him."

Pushing the boundaries

Whether real or imagined, the pressure on Nathan Peats was building.

The Titans coaching staff had decided carrying two hookers in a squad of 17 was a luxury they could not afford in 2019. With losses mounting and Mitch Rein waiting in the wings, Peats pushed his body to breaking point.

He tore his pectoral muscle in an additional gym session prior to the round-three clash with the Rabbitohs and was out for 10 weeks.

Nathan Peats on the run for NSW in 2017.
Nathan Peats on the run for NSW in 2017. ©NRL Photos

"That’s him to a tee. He’s not one to have a day off. That’s him doing extras and look what he did to himself," says Brad Takairangi, a teammate in the 20s at Souths and also at Parramatta.

"He’s not the fastest – he’s actually the slowest – but he’s the fittest bloke I’ve ever trained with. He has this competitiveness and willingness to beat everyone, especially anyone in his position. I remember any hooker that came into the team he used to give them the shoulder, let them know that it was his spot.

"He was a competitive little bugger. He played with a broken neck for half a game, so that just sums him up.

"He wouldn’t lose a fitness test until Gutho [Clint Gutherson] came, and he was filthy about that."

Reynolds adds: "As a young bloke coming through the ranks he out-worked anyone and he’s still got that work ethic today.

"He’s a fiery character as well but that’s just the competitor coming out in him.

"It made him into the player he is today and if he didn’t have that competitiveness in him he probably wouldn’t have gone as far as he has.

"He’s a tough bloke. He’s obviously had a few injuries in his time and if there’s someone who can play in pain it’s him."

During the 2015 season Peats played 36 minutes of a game against the Roosters with a broken neck but was back in the Eels No.9 jersey by round one the following year.

By round 11 he was playing for the Titans.

Off contract at the end of 2016, Peats was something of a sacrificial lamb as the Eels shed weight to be salary cap compliant, his sudden departure leaving deeper scars than the one on his neck.

"When that came out he asked me and Junior to come downstairs to his place for a chat,” says Takairangi, who along with Peats and Junior Paulo lived in the same unit complex dubbed "The Bronx".

"He told us what was going on. He broke down telling us how much he loved Parra but how he had to go to the Titans. Once he broke down all the girls broke down, it was such a sad day.

"I think everyone knows by now but he’s a very emotional man Peatsy. He’s not afraid to cry and once he started crying the whole room was feeling it.

"To see them having to pack up and leave was very tough for him at the time."

Norman adds: "Peatsy is so tough and competitive that the broken neck wasn’t such a big deal to him but I feel like in 2016 when he got shown the door he felt a bit let down.

"He probably felt like he had put his body on the line for the club and us boys only to be shown the door.

"At that point we were starting to come together as a team. We were going to be finals bound and I feel like all that hard work he’d put in and putting his body on the line, to be shown the door was a massive let-down."

Friendly fire

For all the training blow-ups and Twitter banter, behind the public facade of Nathan Peats lies a loyal and devoted friend.

Reynolds talks about the friendships he still shares with guys he played alongside in the under 13s and under 14s at La Perouse while he maintains an exclusive WhatsApp group with his former Bronx buddies Takairangi and Paulo.

"If you’ve got a friendship with Nath you’ve got a friendship forever," says Reynolds.

"He values it so much and genuinely cares about the person. He’d never let you down."

Somewhat begrudgingly, Takairangi adds: "He’s actually pretty funny.

"He finds himself funnier than most of his jokes actually are but he’s actually a funny bloke and definitely someone you can talk to about anything.

Nathan Peats barks instructions during his Eels stint.
Nathan Peats barks instructions during his Eels stint. ©NRL Photos

"Even though he’s changed teams and changed states we still stay in pretty close touch."

Even as the Titans head towards the wooden spoon on the back of nine straight losses, Peats took the time to check in on Norman as St George Illawarra waded through their own struggles, now sitting just one rung above the Gold Coast on the Telstra Premiership ladder.

"It’s been a horrible year for us and he just texted me out of the blue and said, ‘Hey mate, how’s my buddy going? Hope you’re well’," Norman says.

"It was just a text to ask me how I was feeling and how I was travelling. He’s come so far to when I first met him."

But given he’s always so eager to have the final say, it seems only fair that the last word on playing 150 games goes to the man himself. 

"It’s probably taken me a bit longer than I would have liked but it’s a good little achievement."

Well said.