21 Dec 2021

Ford's ambition turned into reality

Toulouse Olympique’s promotion to Betfred Super League is the culmination of hard work and unwavering ambition. At the heart of the club’s success is a core group of individuals, both past and present, that have turned a vision into reality.

Within that group is Toulouse’s captain, Johnathon Ford. Ford joined the club over a decade ago with bold ambitions to reach the topflight – a goal the club reached emphatically in October, beating Featherstone Rovers in the Million Pound game to gain promotion to Super League.

“After we won the final it was all a bit of a blur. I was super excited, but it was a bit surreal. We’ve done it but now we’re onto the next job of turning up and doing well in Super League,” Ford, who joined Toulouse from Sydney Roosters, explained.

Ford quickly developed an impressive reputation at Toulouse and had offers to make a move to Super League in the past. He remained loyal to the club, however, and now bears the fruits of the team’s labour over ten years on.

“It is a bit surreal but it’s exciting. I started a project, had opportunities to head over to England but we had a direction of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to achieve and it’s really good that I can sit back and say we’ve achieved those things.

“It will be something that when my kids are old enough to fully understand, I can explain it to them. That we stuck to this thing and explain the story – my kids were born over here as well so the whole thing intertwines really well into my life and what I’ve achieved – I’m happy, it’s surreal but it’s onto the next job and turning up and playing some footy in Super League."

Ford’s work and personal life are both firmly rooted in Toulouse. As are the unbreakable bonds that many within the group have nurtured over the years. Their focus has persisted on developing rugby league in Toulouse, embedding themselves within their local culture and surroundings, all whilst fighting tooth and nail to help the club reach Super League.

“It’s always good to have something to work towards as a group. It’s very cliched but it’s good to give back a bit and get some more kids playing footy. I think this is where I can influence it the most playing over here. And also, it doesn’t hurt having that bit extra vitamin D!

“I enjoy the lifestyle, I enjoy the challenge and contributing to a project and seeing it through. I am proud of that and of all the boys that have stuck around and the ones that have been here before us. They all had the same kind of vision and it’s all come together. It’s exciting.

“We’ve got a good bunch of boys here. Mark Kheirallah - who I’ve known for nearly 12 years now – we’re close mates and pretty much brothers. And a few other boys who are still floating around now – I played with Sylvain [Houles, Toulouse Head Coach] and I played with Adam Innes who’s our trainer and head of performance, so we’ve got a really good crew and just good blokes. That always makes it easier and obviously harder to leave as well.”

Now the club’s sights are set firmly on making their mark in Super League. And Ford is confident that their exciting brand of rugby paired with a much-improved defence will put them in good stead ahead of their maiden season in the competition.

“Everyone’s training well. Everyone seems really fit and eager to get into it. It’s been a good challenge and in a sense, we’ve lifted our intensity and professionalism as a playing group. It’s been good to see everyone buy into what we’ve got going on and enjoy the ride. The best is yet to come.

“We’re a team that has fun. That’s what it’s always been about for me - I’ve always played footy to have fun and I try to carry that with the way I play. We like to throw the ball around a bit and put on a good brand of footy that people can enjoy watching. That makes it fun for us as well and that’s what it’s all about.

“We’ve been working hard on our defence, and I think that showed last year. We really improved in our defence in a lot of areas and we’re still chasing that.

“And hopefully, we’ll be what I believe to be a really respectful team that shows respect to the team we’re playing against and all their fans. That’s what I’m really big on – just a humble, respectful team turning up and doing their job.”

All eyes will be on Ford’s Toulouse side when they open their 2022 campaign against Huddersfield Giants on Saturday 12 February at the Stade Ernest Wallon live on Sky Sports.