Micky Ward


Micky, August 2005
By Mark H
August 29 2005

Micky Ward is your actual local hero, the lad from Wallsend who grew up, went to his local rugby club for a game, was called up by his local professional club, and became a permanent fixture there.

After 102 Premiership appearances, Mickyís well up for the new season, as I found out when we sat down for a chat at the clubís recent media day.  Having featured in every game but the September defeat at Gloucester last season, that seemed a good place to start.

 

Iíd also like to make no apology for not changing Mickyís Geordie Ė itíll hopefully come across in text in as much feeling as it did at the time.

 

FR - I asked this week, any questions for Micky, and I got this comment back:-

 

ďMicky was obviously very much injured in the ankle department early on in the season, Bath if I remember right.  Due to our lack of front row cover he still had to play nearly every game, obviously in discomfort, but he turned up week after week and will be remembered forever as one of the hardest working, most dedicated players ever to play for the Falcons.  I for one owe him a pint.Ē

 

MW - Thatís awesome, thatís awesome.

 

That to me pretty much sums you up last season.

 

Hearing something like that, itís like when you get your first contract, when you first get selected for the club, you get shivers down your spine.  You come here week in week out because you love the place, you love the area, you love playing rugby.  You love playing rugby for your area, you know, you love playing rugby for the lads and stuff like that.  You do what you do, and to get any sort of recognition, any sort of compliments for playing rugby is a massive bonus.  You know, when you get comments like that for playing rugby, thatís what you do it for really.  Stuff like that, thatís unreal, awesome, awesome.

 

How was last season?  Obviously you were injured for most of it.

 

It was relatively tough, I mean, I did have a bit of an ankle niggle, and I did have a bit of an elbow problem.  By the end of the season my back was sore, my shoulders were sore, my flipping neck was sore, but it was just one of those things, something we had to do.  We had Marius who obviously had to leave, he had private things on; Peelie was injured to an extent where he couldnít play with his back; young Davey Wilson had just come back from a knee operation, and he really got throughÖwe tried to get cover in, but there werenít many people about at the time.  We had Isy [James Isaacson] who had hamstring problems and other things like that, so it was a bit of, you know, you really had to roll up your sleeves and get on with it. 

 

Towards the end of the season I was knackered, I was falling apart, Iíll admit that myself.  Iíve probably never been so tired from rugby in my life.  In the last couple of months of the season, I was waking up, I was having to get up an hour earlier than I normally did because I was having to get myself ready to get myself to training on time.  I was panicking, and thinking ďcome on, a couple of weeks left, really focusĒ and stuff like that.  I just had to do it, it was just one of those things.  Towards the end of the season, they [the club] tried to [help], they brought Galo in and tried to look after us a bit more, but it was hard because we didnít have the team to do it.  The same with Andy Long, me and Longy towards the end of the season were doing every training session nigh on, every run through, every scrum, weíd done everything.  Weíre trying to practice stopping driving lineouts and all this type of stuff, and weíre doing them and training. 

 

By the end of the season, as much as a defence mechanism, nobody in your position like [someone coming in]Öitís like a lion, somebody in your position coming to the club, you donít like them coming in, but at the end of the day, looking at the bigger picture realistically we had to get people in.  Weíve signed wisely in the summer, and weíve had to get them in; I think if I had another season like I had last year itíd probably kill me! 

 

It was tough, donít get us wrong, I loved every minute of it, I love playing for the club and Iíd play here for the rest of my time, I love playing here.  If I had to do the same again, Iíd do the same again, Iíd give everything for here.  Itís hard, and it was hard last year I must admit!

 

Micky and that ankle, December 2003

 

I think thatís why youíre so loved, you literally just got on with it.

 

Aye.

 

Everybody knew we were struggling, I mean we got annoyed when we saw things on Sky and in the papers that ďoh Falcons are using a tactic, looking for uncontested [scrums]ĒÖ

 

To be fair, I wish we were using a tactic, because if we were using a tactic then I probably wouldnít have had [the injuries], me ankle wouldnít have went, both my ankles.  Theyíre not too bad now like, but you know it showed in the summer.  I played that Barbarians game, I came off after fifteen minutes because I hurt my ankle.  I couldnít go on the tour because my ankle was bloody sore, but I feel good now, everything seems to be good.

 

 

And itís good as well that you are getting that sort of recognition at international levelÖ

 

Ah, itís unreal for me, that type of stuffís excellent.  You know, you never think that youíre going to get that when you start playing rugby, and to get a little recognition like that is fantastic.

 

Tino and Robbie, how do you think theyíre going to do?  Somebody asked, is Tino the hairy-assed tighthead that weíve been looking for?

 

Time will tell really, wonít it, time will tell.  Iíve never seen Tino play, he looks a canny lad in training and stuff, a really nice bloke.  Heís an asset to the club, because the good thing about players we get in here is that we always seem to get loyal players in, people who will give everything for the rugby club, and I think Tino will give everything for the rugby club.  I hope he does a job, itíd be great if he does; same with Robbie, you know Robbieís a young lad, 23 years old, but heís loyal as well, and thatís the [key] thing, itís the same with Andy Perry.  We havenít just brought in bigger stars, weíve brought in lads whoíll be loyal to the rugby club and I think that will help a great deal.  Obviously theyíve done well in training, time will tell [in a match situation], and I hope that it will, because people doing well obviously means the club does well.

 

Do you think that you can look forward now, I mean as a professional rugby player you probably wonít be wanting weeks off, missing games by sitting on the bench or in the stand, but do you think that weíre now at the stage where we might see that and youíre being rested which, in a way, will be better for your careerÖ

 

Well, that will happen this year, itíll happen to everybody this year, because weíve got the squad that can do it.  Nobody like being left out of the team or left out of the starters, you want to start every game, but realistically, at this level, you canít start every game and give it 100% in all games, especially in the front five.  I donít think you could mention anybody in a front five whoíve started every game and done well.

 

Weíve got to be wiser, and if we are wiser then weíll do well, but it is hard to take, donít get us wrong, if someone says ďyouíre being rested this weekĒ, Iím the type of person who automatically thinks that Iíve been dropped, itís my mentality.  If Iím not starting, Iím disappointed.  Even if Iím on the bench and coming on at half time, Iím still disappointed.  Iím a rugby player and I want to start every game for Newcastle Falcons, but realistically, itís not going to happen.  Itís just my mentality.

 

 

Do you prefer playing at tighthead or loosehead, because with Peelie struggling last season, you moved over to the looseÖ

 

I donít know at the minute, because I began my career as a loosehead obviously and played three, four years hereÖand then when Bladesy came I went across to the tighthead, then Iíd just felt that Iíd got the knack of the tighthead last yearÖbut Iím easy.  I love playing tighthead, donít get me wrong, itís a hard position to play but I love playing it, but then again I like the loosehead, so both just as much. 

 

I can play either side, and I think that with there being five props here itís a bonus for me.  I can say ďright, I can play this side or I can play that sideĒ.  Itís important for me to have that this year, and I think that itís important for the club [so] about fifty-fifty I think, as long as Iím playing!

 

How big an influence, in your time at the club, did George Graham and Marius Hurter have?

 

Massive I would say, because they were in their prime when I came through.  George Graham, got on so well with him, he was a top bloke, [Iíve] got a lot of respect for the bloke, still have now, the same as Marius.  They taught us a lot, big strong blokes, I can still remember when I was younger scrimmaging against Marius and just being wrapped up, he was that big a bloke, but it teaches you stuff, and you could always get up and talk to him, and theyíd always give us half an hour of their time or whatever.  As much as Iíve got no idols in rugby, if I looked up to anyone I never wanted to be like anyone, thereís three people whoíve really helped us out Ė those two definitely and Andy Blades as well.  Theyíre the three key figures in my development over the years I would say, definitely.

 

As a prop do you miss Andy Blades?

 

I do, aye.  As a prop, I do miss him.  Heís fabulous, I miss him as a coach, heís a top bloke, Iíve played with him, Iíve been lucky enough to be coached by him, heís spot on.  As a prop, I do miss Bladesy, because he was a very good prop, he was a technical prop and coach, and as a prop for technical aspects of the game, I donít think thereís anybody better in the world to tell you to change that foot from there to there and then youíll do better..  Iíve never been coached by anybody in the propping department thatís better.  I still speak to him from time to time, to tell you the truth, I give him a ring  and if Iím struggling here or struggling there, Iíll give him a buzz and have a good chat with him; heís a million miles away but he still knows what youíre talking about over the phone you know, ďgive this a shot, give that a shotĒ.  Top bloke.

 

So I walk ten paces, turn and shoot Walnut with my finger then?

 

Just taking you further back, how did somebody from such a football area like Wallsend get into rugby?

 

(Laughing) Cos I was about five stone too heavy to play football!  I used to enjoy playing football with me pals when I was younger, but I could never take it further, I was always too heavy and too fat.  I just started playing [rugby] at school Ė to tell you the truth I was never massively into it, I used to love playing it at school but I got asked a question off one of the young lads over the way at summer camp, ďwho was my idol, who made you want to play rugby when you were youngerĒ, and I had to say to them nobody, because I didnít use to watch them when I was young.  I didnít use to watch them, I used to gan out and have a laugh and play rugby, , but I never used to watch it, and it wasnít until I started playing professionally and got up here that I did [start watching rugby], and started really getting into it. 

 

I think that Iíve been lucky in a sense, because thereís a lot of young lads now, twelve and thirteen, for whom playing rugby is the be all and end all, they donít do other things.  They donít enjoy it, itís all ďyou canít go there, youíve gotta try and get thereĒ, whereas I just went with the flow.  I was lucky enough to get here, and I was over the moon.  Iíve been very lucky, and I know Iíve been very lucky, and to an extent thatís why I do everything I do 100%, because you know, you only get one crack at it at the end of the day.  Iíve been lucky to get up here, there are a lot of people trying to knock you off your perch, so Iíve decided to give everything 100% while Iím here.

 

What do you think is the biggest reason youíve done so well in your career?  Youíre a local lad, youíve come into the club, youíve come up through the ranks, and youíre now, I would say, probably the best prop at the club.  What gets you to that position, what drives you?

 

Iíve just been myself, to tell you the truth.  As a person, with everyone at the club, Iíve just tried to be myself, Iíve not tried to be anything Iím not.  I didnít go to private school, Iím not anythingÖIíve just tried to be myself.  I just know that you donít get given many opportunities in life, so youíve got to give 100%.  I know how lucky I am, and I know that my friends are working all hours that God sends, I know that.  Iíve done a bit of work before I started playing rugby, so I know how hard it is getting up at like half seven in the morning and working all day Ė I think that I just understand how lucky I am, but I also love doing it, I love working hard, I just enjoy giving everything.  It doesnít matter what it is, all I try to do, whatever Iím doing, I just try to be judged well as giving 100%, and I donít like people to think Iím slacking Ė Iíd hate anyone to think that Iím slacking.

 

What was really ground into me, when I started, if I hadnít given 100% and I was sitting in the city wishingÖI didnít want to be sitting there in five or six years time saying to someone, ďI could have played professional rugby if Iíd been botheredĒ.  Youíve got to be bothered, you only get one chance, you have to give it your best crack, and I think thatís why I just give everything my best crack.  If I make it I make it, if I didnít at least I could stand up and say ďthere, Iíve give it my best crack, Iíve tried my best, I havenít been anything Iím not, Iíve been myself, I havenít tried to be anybodyĒ.  You take me how I am, if you didnít like us thatís totally up to you, if you did like us great, Iíll get on dead well with you.  Thatís really it, thatís me like.

 

 

What do you see yourself doing then when your career stops, hopefully in about ten years time?  Hopefully youíll still be at the club in ten years time?

 

Thatís my goal obviously, to still be here.  Iíd love to still be involved in the game coaching Blackie does, I love trying to inspire people to work hard, that type of stuff, coachingÖfitness coaching, motivation, I love all that kind of stuff.  If I didnít do that type of thing, which I would love to do, Iíd probablyÖIíve done a few houses up, I enjoy that type of stuff, my dadís a handy bloke, so Iíd probably go into roofing, some sort of manual labour, but hopefully Iíd go into the coaching.  I love coaching the kids and all that type of thing.

 

Fancy coaching the club?

 

Iíd love to, you couldnít ask, you couldnít think ofÖif you were going to write something down, what you would write down is, go to your local rugby club when youíre seventeen years old and you play for them for fifteen years, you manage to get capped for England, you win a couple of things with your rugby club, you play 200 and odd times, you finish when youíre thirty-odd, go on, you coach the academy, go on, you coach the first team, coach them to win something, you couldnítÖyou know, you couldnít write a better thing down could you?  You dream of something like that happening, well I do anyway, especially when youíre here.  I would love to coach the club, I know itís a long time away, but I would love to, love to.

 

Youíve probably answered the next question that somebody asked, would you ever consider playing for another clubÖ

 

No.

 

Öif you got the right offer?

 

Nope.  If the club came to me now with a contract, same sort of contract that Iím on now, for me to be here until Iíve finished playing rugby, I would sign it.  If that was a contract (Markís note - pointing to my notebook) and they said to me ďwould you sign it?Ē, Iíd take the thing and sign it straightaway.

 

FantasticÖ

 

Thereíd be nothing to think about, I donít need to think, because Iíve already thought about it, I didnít wanna gan away, I donít need to.

 

Thatís all anyone could really ask forÖ

 

I thinkÖlook at Martin Johnson, heís stayed at one club all his life, didnít want to go anywhere.  Look at Neil Back, you donít need to go anywhere else, especially when youíre at one of the best clubs in the world, you donít need to go anywhere else.

 

Every aching muscle, Gloucester at KP, February 2005

 

Do you have any pre-match rituals or superstitions?  Or is that just for the backs?

 

I wouldnít say so.  When I was younger I used to try things likeÖno, Iíve never really.  I try not to because itís one more thing to think about.  I try different things eating wise on a morning, like I try and not have food after this time and all that kind of stuff, but I wouldnít say that Iíve got a ritual.  I always have two bowls of cereal, thatís probably the only thing, I always have two bowls of cereal (laughing) and thatís about it!

 

Whatís your normal matchday like?

 

I stay at my motherís house if weíre at home, get up about ten, half ten, go down, have me cereal, maybe have some toast, a yoghurt, sit and watch the telly until about twelve oíclock.  I would have my kit sorted out, I know my kitís there anyway, so get upstairs, sort me kit out, grab a wash, stick me tracksuit on, put my bag and suit in the car, tell me mum Iíll see her after the game, then get in my car and head off to the rugby club.  Thatís my normal matchday routine really.

 

And hopefully push the scrum far, far backÖ

 

Yeah, itís always a plus!

 

Have you got a nickname at the club and why, or is it just Wardy?

 

Nah, just Wardy.  Just Wardy really.

 

The ankle gives up in the Parc des Princes, April 2005

 

Somehow I thought that would be it.  What do you consider your greatest rugby achievement?

 

Thereís a few, becauseÖin stages, the first is arriving at the club and signing my first contract, because that was awesome Ė I can still remember the day now.  Winning the cup was unreal, they were both big, starting the cupÖlast year, probably, the biggest one was last year, getting the nod ahead of Marius in the cup final, that was fabulous.  Winning the cup finals, running out at Twickenham for the Barbarians game the other weekÖunreal.  I couldnít put a finger on one individual thing, Iíve been lucky for bestÖthereís been a couple of things, getting a first cap for England, running out here for the first time, running out for England and stuff like that, probably about it.  Fantastic.

 

A few off-beat ones now.  Whoís the biggest joker at the club?

 

Probably Noonie Iíd say.

 

Along similar lines, whoís the biggest poseur at the club?

 

I donít really know. Tommy May likes his sunbed, I think.  I donít know, probably Tom, Tom always likes to look cool.  A couple of the Academy lads are Spice Boys as well with their hairÖBuisty, Buistyís a bit of a poseur with his hair and that.  Probably Tom or Buisty I would say.

 

Do you personally give out a recognised qualification for the work you do in Geordie for speakers of other languages?

 

(Laughing)  Thereís a few getting into it, Andy Perryís quite good at it, to be fair heís picking it up quite well, heís canny good.  Charvís getting the hang of it, obviously Peelieís nearly an adopted Geordie now, heís nearly been here for ten years, but I should start giving qualifications out really, theyíre getting there.

 

Burkey, in his autobiography, said that heís getting used to the language but heís not quite there yet, so youíll have to give him some more lessonsÖ

 

Burkey, I dunno whether he understood us at first but I think he understands us now.  Itís funny, when youíre talking to someone, you talk to them at your normal pace, and theyíre just sort of shaking their head and Iím thinking ďI know youíre not actually understanding what Iím saying, but Iím sure you will in a couple of months!Ē

 

Just on that point, whatís it like having so many World Cup winners like Burkey, Owen Finegan, Jonny, and playing with them?  Obviously Jonny was here, but actually the club attracting World Cup winnersÖ

 

You can think that, but I didnít think of Burkey as a World Cup winner, itís the same as Wilko, I donít see him as Jonny Wilkinson, I see him as Wilko.  I donít see Burkey as Matt Burke the all-conquering Australian, I see him as Burkey.  Itís the same with every single one of the players within the club, you know, itís the same with Rob Andrew, I didnít see ďRob AndrewĒ [the England fly-half], you know what I see on the TV now, theyíre two different [people]Öitís funny. Because theyíre two different people, you know when like Noonieís playing for England, itís not Noonie, itís ďoh thereís Jamie NoonĒ.  Itís funny, I donít see them as all these big stars, theyíre pals that I play rugby with.

 

Did you get the sort of buzz that I personally got when Noonie went over for his hat-trick (against Scotland)?

 

Ahh, donít get us wrong, I thinkÖthe Welsh game, because obviously my friends and that all get on with Noonie, heís been here years, so the Welsh game, all the lads came round to mine before the game, we sat and watched the game and you knowÖbut when he scored his tries against Scotland I was over the moon for him, I love seeing him do well.  I love seeing all my mates do well, and thatís what they all are really, theyíre all your mates at the end of the day.  You donít see them as anything else apart from your mates.

 

And as if to prove his commitment, Worcester at KP, April 2005 - one week later.

 

Final question Ė itís to do with the terrace song, do you consider yourself to be fat, round and worth a million pound?

 

(Laughing)  I consider myself the first two, fat and round, but not worth a million pound!  Itís funny itís stuck that, because I played for England under 21s a few years ago and all the lads from Wallsend came up, started singing it, then they went to Headingley, down to the Harlequins semi-final in the Challenge Cup and they started singing it there, and it just started to stick and stick and stick, but itís a good craic.  I think itís great, but you never know, speak to us in fifteen or twenty years time and I might be worth a million pound.  Iíll probably still be fat and round like, but I might be worth a million pound!

 

----

 

After chatting to Micky for half an hour, I couldnít fail to be inspired by him.  Itís blatantly obvious from what he said that heís here for the duration, heís going to be busting a gut every time he pulls on a rugby shirt, and heís going to be the same guy he is now Ė friendly, approachable, and our local hero.  Thanks to Micky for spending the time talking to me (I hope I havenít done you a dis-service anywhere mate!), and thanks to Smithy for setting it up for us.

 

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