David Clegg Meets With Garreth Carvell, Player Welfare Manager And U19s’ Head Coach, To Look Back At His Illustrious Playing Career
As a native of Leeds, you would have expected a player as talented as Salford’s Player Welfare Officer, Garreth Carvell, to have been among those of his generation who featured in Leeds Rhinos’ decade of success, in which they constantly appeared in Grand Finals, Challenge Cup Finals, and World Club Challenges. Far from that, however, it turned out to be from within the ranks of Leeds’s opponents, on a number of these occasions, that Garreth gained many of his big match appearances.
Indeed, over theyears, Garreth came to be something of an unlucky omen, as far as Leeds were concerned, particularly in the Challenge Cup, with his being involved in their defeats by Hull in 2005, and Warrington in 2010. One might also suspect that had he been included in Castleford’s Cup Final side of 2014, that his presence , then, might even have spooked the Rhinos once more.
It was in rugby union, however, in which, as a five year old, he first became familiar with a rugby ball, when he joined Morley RUFC, for whom he played at lock forward until the age of twelve, when he changed code to join Stanningley ARLFC. The move to rugby league triggered a change of position, and he was taken out of the pack to play in the centre, where he became an inveterate try scorer, notching around five to six per game.
Being a relatively early developer, physically, he proved to be both incisive and powerful, and this naturally attracted the attention of Leeds, who signed him to their Academy, once he had reached the age of sixteen, turning him into a second row forward. He found this an ideal move as he was much more involved in that position, enjoying the rough and tumble that goes with it, whilst not being as vulnerable, defensively.
He was always fully aware that other players would eventually start to catch up with his physical development, and so used to practise different techniques and ball skills, in order to have these within his armoury and stand him in good stead for the future.
That period of his development as a player was alongside a plethora of who’s who, from within the Leeds ranks, including the likes of Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire, and Danny Ward. Coached initially by Dean Bell, and then later by Hugh McGahan, Garreth remembers this time as one in which he learned a lot about discipline, focus and mental attitude, all of which has been of great benefit to him throughout his career.
Dean Bell’s promotion to first team coach led to Garreth’s Super League debut, still aged only sixteen, away at St Helens, where, he admits, opposing forward, Apollo Perelini gave him a baptism of fire. Among the Leeds players alongside Garreth, that day, was a certain Adrian Morley, and the two of them, Garreth is proud to say, struck up a great and long-lasting friendship, which has now been rekindled, and is still going strong, here at Salford.
A change of direction, though, came a couple of seasons later, when he went on loan, for a season, to play for Gateshead Thunder, who, at that time, prior to their merger with the then, Hull Sharks, were a fully fledged Super League team. Just living up in the north-east, in such close proximity to nightlife of Newcastle, was quite an exciting experience for a young eighteen year old, and he enjoyed every minute to the full.
Instead of returning to Headingley at the end of the season, however, the inevitable merger of the two east coast clubs opened the way for Garreth, alongside many of the Gateshead squad, to follow Head Coach, Shaun Mc Rae, to the KC Stadium, where he made the positional move into the front row, as prop.
Because of the ‘developmental’ nature of the Gateshead Thunder club, there were certain dispensations to which they were exempted, one of which was the number of overseas players they were entitled to have, and this continued upon their relocation to Humberside. Consequently, they were able to boast the services of a number of high profile, quality Australians, including Tony Grimaldi, Dean Bird and Jason Smith.
The really novel aspect of playing on Humberside, was, of course, being involved in the Humberside derby games, and, over his seven seasons there, he was involved in fourteen such encounters. What makes them so special, he maintains, is the sheer volume of noise from the crowd, and in addition to being extremely loud, the fans are also quite aggressive. Not that he ever felt intimidated, for in fact he quickly discovered that he thrives in that sort of atmosphere, especially in front of a packed house.
The climax to Garreth’s time there came in 2005, when they defeated favourites, Leeds, to lift the Challenge Cup, at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, giving him the first of his victories over the Rhinos.
Unexpected as this may have been to the general rugby league public, he tells me that the squad was really confident, having coach, John Kear, who was a remarkable motivator for one-off games and had the experience of having already won the Cup, as coach of Sheffield Eagles. In addition, Garreth says the team was a really good group of people who were prepared to give their last drop of blood for each other, so there were no splinter groups, and, with their partners all getting on well together, there was a real family feeling around the whole place.
That first experience of a really big occasion is something which stands out in his memory, as he was determined to take it all in, right from the outset with their arrival in Cardiff, where he found the streets lined with fans. It was just the same in the hotel, and the roads leading to the Millennium Stadium, on the day of the game, were just a sea of black and white. His over-riding recollection of the preparation for the game was how incredibly calm he felt, but then, once it had started, the game itself was over in a flash.
Next Time David Clegg Speaks With Garreth About His International Career And Time At Warrington