Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

First Fruits of Apprentice Scheme Starting to Show

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

First Fruits of Apprentice Scheme Starting to Show

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Smith Sports Writer

THE man who put George McGuigan on to Newcastle Falcons' radar believes the Ireland Under-20s hooker can continue to advance into the professional game.

Ed Midcalf, now a coach at National Three North side Percy Park, spotted McGuigan during his time in charge of the Falcons' Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE) scheme.

The front-row forward this year became the first player to graduate through the programme into the full Falcons' first-team.

Midcalf said: "George came into the AASE programme when I was holding the reins and he has done really well for himself.

"He is from Richmond in North Yorkshire and I first saw him in an under-14s county trial.

"I spoke to the Falcons' academy manager Mark Laycock about him and together we got him involved in the AASE scheme.

"That meant he travelled up and lived in Newcastle doing his A-Levels and apprenticeship programme at Gosforth Academy.

"He could have gone on to do a business degree at Northumbria University, but he has chosen to go down the route of being a full-time professional rugby player."

Proud to have played a part in bringing through the abrasive hooker, who has shone for Newcastle in both the LV and Amlin Challenge Cups, he added: "George coming through as the first AASE player to be selected for the Falcons' senior side is all part of the big picture for the club.

"As well as the work we did with him at Gosforth, the Falcons academy coaches have put in a huge amount of time and effort, not to mention Tynedale and Darlington Mowden Park where he has also played club rugby.

"It is pleasing to see him coming through.

"He will have to work hard to stay in that environment and advance even further, but he will know all that and be prepared to put the graft in."

Despite Midcalf moving on to pastures new the apprenticeship programme remains up and running, the former boss explaining: "It is now under the guidance of Peter Butler and is in its sixth year. …

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