Dizzy heights of a Newcastle Falcons legend
PUBLISHED: 14:02 19 October 2010 | UPDATED: 18:00 20 February 2013
Rugby life in the North East has changed dramatically during Newcastle Falcons' time in the top flight. Roger Tames talks to the local lad who's experienced the whole journey
The fascinating story of professional rugby on Tyneside has seen some of the greatest names in the world game pull on the clubs black shirt. Yet the only player to have seen the whole remarkable transformation is a trained plumber
Not that Micky Ward can truly be said to have actually seen it all, when
hes spent most of his time at Kingston Park emerging from the front row of a rugby scrum.
Earning your living by playing any sport is never as easy as many fans might imagine. Surely nobody would think that more than a decade spent battering your way in the front row of the pack constitutes an easy job.
Fortunately, Micky Wards natural Geordie good humour has remained unscathed by the rigours of life as a
prop forward, even if the same cannot be said about
You should watch me trying to get out of bed in the morning, chuckles the squads senior player. Your body takes such a hammering. My shoulders are knackered.
Its a tough job, the hardest position in the team. Youve got seven big blokes pushing you - and eight more on the other side! There are times when Ive come up dizzy and you dont know where you are.
There arent as many dirty tricks as there used to be but it is more physical now, just because the players are getting stronger and more powerful. I havent come out of it too badly though, a few stitches here and there. Im growing my hair now to cover up the bruises and make me look younger.
Micky is allowing himself to become slightly age conscious, as hes been granted a testimonial season, though hes only 31 years old.
He was playing for Wallsend when joined the club as its first apprentice in December 1997, the Falcons first season in the top flight when Rob Andrews all-stars stormed their way
to the title.
The game has totally changed, explains Micky, whose high points were two Powergen Cup Final victories at Twickenham. England winning the World Cup was a big factor. People who dont follow rugby that much still associate Newcastle Falcons with Jonny Wilkinson and I think that will always be the case.
Jonny certainly got people through the door. He was a big influence, a role model, great professional, everything you would want from a player. He was the type of bloke youd probably want your daughter to go out with - unlike some of the reprobates weve got here!
The changed rugby landscape has given Micky the chance to continue in the sport he loves once his playing
career is over. Hes taken a role at the Falcons as a specialist forwards coach and also coaches at his old club, Wallsend, and Newcastle University. Hes also planned for the future outside the game, just in case.
Im quite a realist, says the man who enjoyed two tours with England Saxons. I didnt always get the best exam results when I was a young un. When you retire as a rugby player you cant just go off to Marbella and smoke cigars.
I thought I should plan for the future so I took a plumbing course. Im NVQ level two qualified. Ive done some plumbing in the house and stuff for some of the lads. Im a better prop than plumber, to be honest.
Kingston Park has seen a massive turnover in personnel in recent years, so Mickys loyalty to the cause has only increased his popularity with the fans. Lets hope the spanners stay in the garage - for Micky to leave the Falcons would be too big a wrench.