ADOPTED LONDONER Danny Ward is back in the Broncos camp, almost two years after hanging up his boots.
Ward, inset, began his playing career at Leeds Rhinos in 1999 and ended it as a Harlequins player 12 years later, with spells at Castleford and Hull KR in between. After 12 months back in the north, Dewsbury-born Ward returned to the capital and now has a dual-role with London Broncos, who face Rhinos at Twickenham Stoop tonight.
“When I retired I moved up north, to Leeds, but my wife and I decided we prefer it down here,” Ward revealed.
“We moved back down last October and I got in touch with the Broncos and got involved with the scholarship. Then in about April, Tony Rea (London’s coach) contacted me about getting involved with the first team as well, helping out for a few days. I jumped at the chance. I am doing the scholarship and helping the first team as well – and I am loving it.”
Despite his father David Ward’s pedigree in coaching, Danny said he never fancied it as a career, until after his playing days had ended. “I didn’t think I could be bothered,” he said. “It looked like it took up too much time, the hours coaches put in.
“But I moved up north and I had nothing to do with the game – I was a housewife. I was looking after the kids and playing mum and the missus worked. It was good to have a break, because I’ve been full-on in rugby league since I was 16. I had a break and got my appetite back and it made me realise what a massive part of my life it is. I can’t do without it and I’ve got a hunger for it again.” Ward is learning the hard way with London’s senior team, who are bottom of Super League and have won just three games this year. But he said: “For me personally, it has been a good learning experience and working with the kids is really enjoyable. They are so keen to learn and they soak up everything like sponges. I have learned so much in the short time I have been doing it.
“Unfortunately the first team’s results haven’t gone our way and we’ve had some poor performances, but we have got to work together and turn that around.”
Broncos were humiliated 70-0 by Wigan Warriors in a Tetley’s Challenge Cup semi-final five days ago.
“What better way to come back from that than by playing the champions at our place?” Ward said. “Hopefully we’ll get a reaction. The players realise they didn’t perform and they let themselves down and they’ve got to come up with a lot better performance this week.”
He still keeps in touch with players for his Leeds days and added: “I have got some good mates there and I have a lot of time for Mac as coach. I am pleased when Leeds do well, I just hope it’s not this week.”
Tonight’s game is Leeds’ first since the death of their former coach Graham Murray, right, last weekend.
“He gave me my debut,” Ward recalled. “What he did for Leeds was awesome, it is terrible news.”