Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ward's Feeling Right at Home; Long-Serving Falcons Star Glad He Stuck by His Roots

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ward's Feeling Right at Home; Long-Serving Falcons Star Glad He Stuck by His Roots

Article excerpt

Byline: Nick Purewal

STALWART Newcastle Falcons prop Micky Ward would have launched his testimonial year with a homecoming - if he had ever left.

Evergreen Kingston Park favourite Ward took the short walk from his Wallsend home back to his old primary school yesterday, proudly kicking off an honour he never expected when he pitched up at the Falcons 13 years ago.

The 31-year-old has always lived in Wallsend, and will send his children to Jubilee Primary. His sister's children attend the school, his parents still live round the corner - and Ward still coaches at the town's rugby club.

The long-serving Falcons front-rower has had plenty of opportunities to leave the North East, but after cementing his life and his career around his roots, he said he was not about to break that habit with his testimonial.

"I always said if I was lucky enough to have a testimonial I would keep it in the local area, where I was born and have grown up," he explained.

"My parents and all my mates still live in Wallsend, so with the committee we've put together for this we've tried to say thank you to the people who have helped me in the local area.

"Where other testimonials might be aimed more at the corporate end, mine will be aimed more towards what I'm about, just a run-of-the-mill type of guy."

Likeable Ward knows it comes as no surprise that he was always hefty, even in his younger years, but he only started putting that frame to use on the rugby field as a relative late-comer.

He might not recall too much detail about primary school, but Ward's Falcons debuts are inked on his mind.

An unfamiliar turn in the back-row probably gave him a nosebleed, but he was happily installed in more natural surroundings soon enough. "I was probably a bit too big to be honest as a youngster," he continued. "That was probably one of my downfalls, I've always been quite a big lad.

"I probably had too many cakes, I reckon I was quite mischievous, and certainly eating a little bit too much food! I didn't start playing rugby until I was about 13 or 14 so it was a little late.

"I remember I was playing at Wallsend when Sir John Hall took over at the Falcons, and that's when I thought I'd better get myself up there.

"A couple of months later luckily I got a phone call, I was asked up for a week's trial and 13 years later they still cannot get rid of me.

"I can still remember my debut, I came off the bench one week against Richmond in the Cheltenham and Gloucester Cup, and then we played Bath a week later in the same competition.

"When I actually came off the bench against Richmond I went on as a flanker, because Steve O'Neill came off injured and Batesy put me on as a flanker. "At half-time I went across to prop and I started the next week against Bath. They had quite a strong side out with a lot of internationals, and I remember we scored in the corner through Inga Tuigamala to win the game with the last play - that's not something you forget in a hurry. …

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