Leeds Knights: Matty Davies hitting his stride as Knights begin to show their true potential

MATTY DAVIES was under no illusions as to how tough the grind of playing hockey week in, week out would be again after spending so long out of the game.

By Phil Harrison
Thursday, 30th December 2021, 6:37 am
Updated Friday, 31st December 2021, 12:09 pm
Matty Davies, is priving a hit for Leeds Knights in NIHL National. 

Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints
Matty Davies, is priving a hit for Leeds Knights in NIHL National. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints

While a number of players were able to get some valuable ice time into their legs during the various behind-closed-doors tournaments that took place during the Covid-enforced lockdowns from March 2020 onwards, Davies didn’t lace up once.

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He wasn’t alone, although his absence from the ice wasn’t helped by the extended closure of Hull Ice Arena - the rink finally opened in October after £1m-plus refurbishment.

BACK AT IT: Matty Davies, left, at a Leeds Knights practice session at Elland Road Ice Arena.

For Hull Pirates’ owner Shane Smith, that was too late for him to put together a team to take part in the 2021-22 NIHL National season.

A number of Pirates - including Matt Bissonnette, Lee Bonner and Sam Towner - headed down the M18 to hook up with former player-coach Jason Hewitt at Sheffield Steeldogs. Davies and fellow forward Jordan Fisher took the slightly more direct route to Leeds Knights.

The 32-year-old centre freely admits it was tough going for him during the first few weeks of the season at Leeds, but he feels he is getting back to the kind of performances that made him such a prized signing for the NIHL National outfit in the summer.

In all, Davies has had to miss nine games this season, partly through injury and rehab’, some through unavailability.

CUP HOPE: Matty Davies scores for Leeds Knights in the second leg of the Autumn Cup Final against Swindon Wildcats, the Wiltshire team eventually winning 8-6 on aggregate. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

But a return of 26 points from 24 games - seven of them goals - is impressive, particularly when allied with the Hull-born centre’s more recent performances which have shown why he is regarded so highly in the British game.

“It was a really tough start for me, 18 months off the ice definitely didn’t do me any favours,” said Davies. “I’ve got some longstanding problems with my lower body and bits and bobs and I think it was probably a lot to come back into.

“And so it’s only really in the past month or so that I’ve really got back properly, it was just that first part of the season that was very difficult.

“I wasn’t in any of those behind-closed-doors series, I didn’t do any skating whatsoever. And there is nothing else that replicates skating; it is just a unique exercise.

“And, early on, the whole movement of skating just didn’t agree with me whatsoever and I was struggling. But I feel better now and I feel like I’m getting back to where I should be.”

The Knights’ recent run to the Autumn Cup Final, where they lost 8-6 on aggregate to Swindon Wildcats, reminded Davies of why he decided to return to playing after so long away.

One word used constantly in connection with Leeds since owner Steve Nell took over the franchise from rink owners Planet Ice is ‘potential’.

And when they hosted the Wildcats for the second leg of what was a pulsating two-game final, in front of a sellout 2,000-plus crowd, the former GB international realised just why.

“The atmosphere for that second leg of the final was just brilliant,” added the former Hull Stingrays and Manchester Storm forward.

“It was great. For me, it could end up being a really big club here and I’m sure Steve will make that happen. Yes, it was disappointing to lose that final, but there are so many positives there to see - we have to be proud of our efforts.

“It’s a sign of just what is possible here.

“When you break it down, it might be a good thing and kick everyone up the backside a little bit and show us that we have to work even harder to win them sort of games - it should make us even hungrier.”