London Broncos v Castleford Tigers: Danny Orr aims to get one over former team-mate Danny Ward
HE grew up in Allerton Bywater, just a couple of miles down the road from the rugby league heartland of his beloved Castleford Tigers, but Danny Orr is a firm believer in everything going on with the sport almost 200 miles away in London.
As a talented young half-back, after his move from Castleford to Wigan Warriors where he played alongside the likes of Andy Farrell, Kris Radlinski and a young Sean O’Loughlin, Orr switched to the capital city in 2007.
He would stay for four years and play more than 100 games for a club then known as Harlequins, playing at Twickenham Stoop.
Assistant coach Orr, 40, returns with Castleford this evening but this time to Ealing and with the club in its previous guise of London Broncos, in Super League again, revived after four years in the second tier.
Is it good to see them back?
“I think so, I really do,” said Orr, who played under Brian McDermott and alongside Castleford’s current England half-back Luke Gale during his time there. “There are a lot of people who aren’t for the London thing but I know from my time down there they worked really hard to grow the game; I think there’s more kids playing league there than anywhere else in the country.
“They have to stick with it. They’ve had some good results and exposure over the last six months or so, so let it grow.
“Wardy’s doing a fantastic job. It does take time but if you can get it right there it’s a great advert for rugby league isn’t it?”
‘Wardy’, of course, is the charismatic Danny Ward, the former Leeds Rhinos prop from Dewsbury who was a Harlequins team-mate of Orr’s for three years and, in his first season as head coach, led Broncos to promotion in the ‘Million Pound Game’ at Toronto.
Although former Great Britain scrum-half Orr was a natural coach-in-waiting given his on-field influence and control, like most, he never saw the enigmatic front-row taking to the role.
“Not a chance,” he said with a smile. “One of the best guys you could honestly meet. A brilliant guy but no, I never saw a coach in him. He was one of those who was serious but he isn’t serious so you couldn’t work out if he was serious or joking! But a great guy. I sincerely wish him all the best – just not on Saturday.”
London got off to a flying start with a home win over Wakefield Trinity but have lost twice on the road since at Salford and Hull KR.
Castleford have won both their games so, even with injuries to three ex-London players – Gale, Alex Foster and England second-row Mike McMeeken – plus Mitch Clark, Benny Roberts and Jamie Ellis, they remain favourites.
Still, Orr knows not to underestimate what the hosts can do especially on their artificial surface.
“I’ve been impressed, very impressed,” he said.
“They throw the ball around a lot and have a little bit of play in the forwards who are all a similar stature – they’re not giants but they are tough to get hold of.
“They land really quick, get the game going quick and they have good threats. The left edge is strong and (Jordan) Abdull is playing well in the halves.
“He’s playing consistent, probably something he hasn’t done in his career, but he’s found that position and is their key ball player.
“He’s doing a lot of their kicking and kicking quite well so they are going to be a threat especially down there.
“They’ll be a bit more dangerous down there.”
Looking back on his own switch to London, was he ever sceptical about what the move would hold and what the club could achieve?
“A little bit as I didn’t know the area myself,” he recalled.
“You think London and you kind of see the bright lights but it wasn’t.
“They’re based -or were when I was there - in Teddington.
“It was just near Twickenham and Richmond where I lived and a really nice place; very nice suburbs and a vibrant place to be.
“There was loads of kids playing the game but London is so big that I once travelled two hours to get to a promotion - a coaching session with some kids - and I was still in London.
“You might have one game there and you’re closest team is an hour and a half drive away.
“I’m sure it’s’ closer now and there’s a lot more playing the game in the last few years.
“But it’s pretty tough as you have some competition down there especially for those guys.
“There’s Fulham and Chelsea (football clubs) 10 minutes up the road, there’s London Irish, and then Saracens just up the M25.
“So there’s a lot competition but I think they’re’ doing it right; small steps, get some success and, hopefully, grow on the back of that.”