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, Micky’s well up for the new season, as I found out when we sat down for a chat at the club’s recent media day.  Having featured in every game but the September defeat at Gloucester last season, that seemed a good place to start.


I’d also like to make no apology for not changing Micky’s Geordie – it’ll 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:-


“Micky 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.”


MW - That’s awesome, that’s awesome.


That to me pretty much sums you up last season.


Hearing something like that, it’s 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, that’s what you do it for really.  Stuff like that, that’s 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 couldn’t play with his back; young Davey Wilson had just come back from a knee operation, and he really got through…we tried to get cover in, but there weren’t 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, I’ll admit that myself.  I’ve 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 “come on, a couple of weeks left, really focus” 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 didn’t 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, we’d done everything.  We’re trying to practice stopping driving lineouts and all this type of stuff, and we’re doing them and training. 


By the end of the season, as much as a defence mechanism, nobody in your position like [someone coming in]…it’s like a lion, somebody in your position coming to the club, you don’t like them coming in, but at the end of the day, looking at the bigger picture realistically we had to get people in.  We’ve signed wisely in the summer, and we’ve had to get them in; I think if I had another season like I had last year it’d probably kill me! 


It was tough, don’t get us wrong, I loved every minute of it, I love playing for the club and I’d play here for the rest of my time, I love playing here.  If I had to do the same again, I’d do the same again, I’d give everything for here.  It’s hard, and it was hard last year I must admit!


Micky and that ankle, December 2003


I think that’s why you’re so loved, you literally just got on with it.




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


To be fair, I wish we were using a tactic, because if we were using a tactic then I probably wouldn’t have had [the injuries], me ankle wouldn’t have went, both my ankles.  They’re 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 couldn’t go on the tour because my ankle was bloody sore, but I feel good now, everything seems to be good.



And it’s good as well that you are getting that sort of recognition at international level…


Ah, it’s unreal for me, that type of stuff’s excellent.  You know, you never think that you’re 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 they’re going to do?  Somebody asked, is Tino the hairy-assed tighthead that we’ve been looking for?


Time will tell really, won’t it, time will tell.  I’ve never seen Tino play, he looks a canny lad in training and stuff, a really nice bloke.  He’s 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, it’d be great if he does; same with Robbie, you know Robbie’s a young lad, 23 years old, but he’s loyal as well, and that’s the [key] thing, it’s the same with Andy Perry.  We haven’t just brought in bigger stars, we’ve brought in lads who’ll be loyal to the rugby club and I think that will help a great deal.  Obviously they’ve 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 won’t be wanting weeks off, missing games by sitting on the bench or in the stand, but do you think that we’re now at the stage where we might see that and you’re being rested which, in a way, will be better for your career…


Well, that will happen this year, it’ll happen to everybody this year, because we’ve 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 can’t start every game and give it 100% in all games, especially in the front five.  I don’t think you could mention anybody in a front five who’ve started every game and done well.


We’ve got to be wiser, and if we are wiser then we’ll do well, but it is hard to take, don’t get us wrong, if someone says “you’re being rested this week”, I’m the type of person who automatically thinks that I’ve been dropped, it’s my mentality.  If I’m not starting, I’m disappointed.  Even if I’m on the bench and coming on at half time, I’m still disappointed.  I’m a rugby player and I want to start every game for Newcastle Falcons, but realistically, it’s not going to happen.  It’s just my mentality.



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


I don’t know at the minute, because I began my career as a loosehead obviously and played three, four years here…and then when Bladesy came I went across to the tighthead, then I’d just felt that I’d got the knack of the tighthead last year…but I’m easy.  I love playing tighthead, don’t get me wrong, it’s 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 it’s a bonus for me.  I can say “right, I can play this side or I can play that side”.  It’s important for me to have that this year, and I think that it’s important for the club [so] about fifty-fifty I think, as long as I’m 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, [I’ve] 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 they’d always give us half an hour of their time or whatever.  As much as I’ve got no idols in rugby, if I looked up to anyone I never wanted to be like anyone, there’s three people who’ve really helped us out – those two definitely and Andy Blades as well.  They’re 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.  He’s fabulous, I miss him as a coach, he’s a top bloke, I’ve played with him, I’ve been lucky enough to be coached by him, he’s 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 don’t think there’s anybody better in the world to tell you to change that foot from there to there and then you’ll do better..  I’ve never been coached by anybody in the propping department that’s better.  I still speak to him from time to time, to tell you the truth, I give him a ring  and if I’m struggling here or struggling there, I’ll give him a buzz and have a good chat with him; he’s a million miles away but he still knows what you’re talking about over the phone you know, “give this a shot, give that a shot”.  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 – 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, “who was my idol, who made you want to play rugby when you were younger”, and I had to say to them nobody, because I didn’t use to watch them when I was young.  I didn’t 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 wasn’t until I started playing professionally and got up here that I did [start watching rugby], and started really getting into it. 


I think that I’ve been lucky in a sense, because there’s a lot of young lads now, twelve and thirteen, for whom playing rugby is the be all and end all, they don’t do other things.  They don’t enjoy it, it’s all “you can’t go there, you’ve gotta try and get there”, whereas I just went with the flow.  I was lucky enough to get here, and I was over the moon.  I’ve been very lucky, and I know I’ve been very lucky, and to an extent that’s why I do everything I do 100%, because you know, you only get one crack at it at the end of the day.  I’ve been lucky to get up here, there are a lot of people trying to knock you off your perch, so I’ve decided to give everything 100% while I’m here.


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


I’ve just been myself, to tell you the truth.  As a person, with everyone at the club, I’ve just tried to be myself, I’ve not tried to be anything I’m not.  I didn’t go to private school, I’m not anything…I’ve just tried to be myself.  I just know that you don’t get given many opportunities in life, so you’ve 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.  I’ve 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 – 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 doesn’t matter what it is, all I try to do, whatever I’m doing, I just try to be judged well as giving 100%, and I don’t like people to think I’m slacking – I’d hate anyone to think that I’m slacking.


What was really ground into me, when I started, if I hadn’t given 100% and I was sitting in the city wishing…I didn’t want to be sitting there in five or six years time saying to someone, “I could have played professional rugby if I’d been bothered”.  You’ve got to be bothered, you only get one chance, you have to give it your best crack, and I think that’s why I just give everything my best crack.  If I make it I make it, if I didn’t at least I could stand up and say “there, I’ve give it my best crack, I’ve tried my best, I haven’t been anything I’m not, I’ve been myself, I haven’t tried to be anybody”.  You take me how I am, if you didn’t like us that’s totally up to you, if you did like us great, I’ll get on dead well with you.  That’s really it, that’s me like.



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


That’s my goal obviously, to still be here.  I’d love to still be involved in the game coaching Blackie does, I love trying to inspire people to work hard, that type of stuff, coaching…fitness coaching, motivation, I love all that kind of stuff.  If I didn’t do that type of thing, which I would love to do, I’d probably…I’ve done a few houses up, I enjoy that type of stuff, my dad’s a handy bloke, so I’d probably go into roofing, some sort of manual labour, but hopefully I’d go into the coaching.  I love coaching the kids and all that type of thing.


Fancy coaching the club?


I’d love to, you couldn’t ask, you couldn’t think of…if you were going to write something down, what you would write down is, go to your local rugby club when you’re 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 you’re thirty-odd, go on, you coach the academy, go on, you coach the first team, coach them to win something, you couldn’t…you know, you couldn’t write a better thing down could you?  You dream of something like that happening, well I do anyway, especially when you’re here.  I would love to coach the club, I know it’s a long time away, but I would love to, love to.


You’ve probably answered the next question that somebody asked, would you ever consider playing for another club…




…if you got the right offer?


Nope.  If the club came to me now with a contract, same sort of contract that I’m on now, for me to be here until I’ve finished playing rugby, I would sign it.  If that was a contract (Mark’s note - pointing to my notebook) and they said to me “would you sign it?”, I’d take the thing and sign it straightaway.




There’d be nothing to think about, I don’t need to think, because I’ve already thought about it, I didn’t wanna gan away, I don’t need to.


That’s all anyone could really ask for…


I think…look at Martin Johnson, he’s stayed at one club all his life, didn’t want to go anywhere.  Look at Neil Back, you don’t need to go anywhere else, especially when you’re at one of the best clubs in the world, you don’t 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 wouldn’t say so.  When I was younger I used to try things like…no, I’ve never really.  I try not to because it’s 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 wouldn’t say that I’ve got a ritual.  I always have two bowls of cereal, that’s probably the only thing, I always have two bowls of cereal (laughing) and that’s about it!


What’s your normal matchday like?


I stay at my mother’s house if we’re 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 o’clock.  I would have my kit sorted out, I know my kit’s 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 I’ll see her after the game, then get in my car and head off to the rugby club.  That’s my normal matchday routine really.


And hopefully push the scrum far, far back…


Yeah, it’s 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?


There’s a few, because…in stages, the first is arriving at the club and signing my first contract, because that was awesome – I can still remember the day now.  Winning the cup was unreal, they were both big, starting the cup…last 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 week…unreal.  I couldn’t put a finger on one individual thing, I’ve been lucky for best…there’s 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.  Who’s the biggest joker at the club?


Probably Noonie I’d say.


Along similar lines, who’s the biggest poseur at the club?


I don’t really know. Tommy May likes his sunbed, I think.  I don’t know, probably Tom, Tom always likes to look cool.  A couple of the Academy lads are Spice Boys as well with their hair…Buisty, Buisty’s 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)  There’s a few getting into it, Andy Perry’s quite good at it, to be fair he’s picking it up quite well, he’s canny good.  Charv’s getting the hang of it, obviously Peelie’s nearly an adopted Geordie now, he’s nearly been here for ten years, but I should start giving qualifications out really, they’re getting there.


Burkey, in his autobiography, said that he’s getting used to the language but he’s not quite there yet, so you’ll have to give him some more lessons…


Burkey, I dunno whether he understood us at first but I think he understands us now.  It’s funny, when you’re talking to someone, you talk to them at your normal pace, and they’re just sort of shaking their head and I’m thinking “I know you’re not actually understanding what I’m saying, but I’m sure you will in a couple of months!”


Just on that point, what’s 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 winners…


You can think that, but I didn’t think of Burkey as a World Cup winner, it’s the same as Wilko, I don’t see him as Jonny Wilkinson, I see him as Wilko.  I don’t see Burkey as Matt Burke the all-conquering Australian, I see him as Burkey.  It’s the same with every single one of the players within the club, you know, it’s the same with Rob Andrew, I didn’t see “Rob Andrew” [the England fly-half], you know what I see on the TV now, they’re two different [people]…it’s funny. Because they’re two different people, you know when like Noonie’s playing for England, it’s not Noonie, it’s “oh there’s Jamie Noon”.  It’s funny, I don’t see them as all these big stars, they’re 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, don’t get us wrong, I think…the Welsh game, because obviously my friends and that all get on with Noonie, he’s 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 know…but 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 that’s what they all are really, they’re all your mates at the end of the day.  You don’t 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 – it’s 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!  It’s funny it’s 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 it’s a good craic.  I think it’s great, but you never know, speak to us in fifteen or twenty years time and I might be worth a million pound.  I’ll probably still be fat and round like, but I might be worth a million pound!




After chatting to Micky for half an hour, I couldn’t fail to be inspired by him.  It’s blatantly obvious from what he said that he’s here for the duration, he’s going to be busting a gut every time he pulls on a rugby shirt, and he’s going to be the same guy he is now – friendly, approachable, and our local hero.  Thanks to Micky for spending the time talking to me (I hope I haven’t done you a dis-service anywhere mate!), and thanks to Smithy for setting it up for us.


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