As Nick Williams embarks on his 15th season as a professional rugby player, the talismanic number eight admits the fire, hunger and determination remains as strong as ever before.
The 35-year-old penned a new deal to extend his stay at Cardiff Arms Park, having become a key figure within the squad, both on and off the field.
Williams hit a half century of appearances for Wales’ Capital Region during the 2018/19 campaign, and the former Junior All Black is confident he can continue to play a crucial role in John Mulvihill’s side.
Williams said: “I think I’ve got a lot more to give, both on and off the pitch, especially when you consider the amount of young guns we have around the team.
“I thought I was playing some decent footy towards the back end of last season and the fire will always be there, it just depends how long the body can hold up.
“It’s so far, so good. The management staff here have been class with which sessions I do and don’t do because it’s such a long pre season.
“The fire is certainly still in the belly and the hunger is still there.
“To be honest, it’s probably been one of the toughest pre-seasons of my career. Not so much physically, but more mentally, because it’s a long one that last three months in a World Cup year.
“But every time I’m feeling down in the dumps, I always remind myself that there are worse jobs in this world and that I’m grateful and blessed to have this opportunity once again.”
As well as leading by example with his barnstorming displays for the region, the 35-year-old has also become a key leader within the group.
Williams, who was nominated for three awards at the Cardiff Blues End of Season presentation, is excited by the “endless” potential within the squad and is delighted with the culture that is being built at the Arms Park.
“Naturally, being a leader isn’t one of my strengths. I would much rather lead by actions than chatting on the pitch,” said the Arms Park favourite.
“But I’ve found that I have to meet the boys halfway in that regard because there’s no use having experience if you can’t share it around with your team-mates.
“The boys here have been unbelievable and they like to listen and take on the good points, as well as the bad points some times.
“Sometimes it’s not good listening but sometimes things need to be said and someone needs to stand up and say it.
“And to be honest, it can come across better when it’s said through a player, from one player to another, rather than the coaches at times, because we’re on the same platform.
“But overall it’s good but the real challenge will come in the season now and that’s when the tough gets going.
“The boys have been in good form over pre-season and we want to carry that all the way into the season.
“This culture is something new that we’re building at Cardiff Blues. With the number of coaches we have had here over the years, it’s probably hard for a coach to stamp his authority or his cultural sense.
“What we’ve tried to do over the last three or four years is, instead of a coach or management starting a culture, we try to start a culture as players.
“It’s getting there and the boys are buying into it, which is awesome and we have a few good committees set up.
“We have a joke committee, so if the boys are feeling down every now and again, the boys involved have to jump up and tell some bad jokes.
“I saw similar things to this back in New Zealand, which put us in good stead and we’ve tried to bring in different aspects that the boys have seen, not just here in Wales, and start up our own culture.
“Just like any other team, there is potential coming out of everywhere. The amount of youngsters we have here, and the potential they have, as well as any boys we get back from the Welsh set-up, it’s endless.
“It’s probably one of the reasons why I decided to stay on, and I feel like they probably need a wee bit of direction.
“There are boys like Seb Davies, and I’ve always been a big fan of his, big Shane [Lewis-Hughes] coming across and Boyde coming in as well. They bring experience and enthusiasm and it’s good to see.”