David Clegg Concludes His Account Of The Playing Career Of Garreth Carvell, Player Welfare Manager And U19s’ Head Coach
A year after that remarkable Challenge Cup success, Hull got themselves to the Grand Final at Old Trafford, but on this occasion things did not work out on the night, and St Helens defeated them to take the crown, but, for Garreth, 2006 was to bring rewards of a different kind with his selection to the Great Britain tour of Australia and New Zealand, which he joined straight after the Grand Final.
Much as the group as a whole would have liked to have been more successful on the field, he says that it was an absolutely fantastic experience, and that just pulling on the Great Britain jersey gives you a feeling of such pride that you cannot really describe it, so great was the honour. He actually featured in three of the test matches, two against New Zealand, and one against Australia, and although the results all went against them, in retrospect he now appreciates that that does nothing to spoil the pride, pleasure and privilege those occasions brought.
The end of the 2008 season saw Garreth make the move across country from Hull to Warrington, having turned down the option of a move down under to South Sydney Rabbitohs. The replacement of James Lowes with Tony Smith, as Head Coach, led to the Wolves’ most successful spell in recent years, with their lifting the Challenge Cup in consecutive years, against Huddersfield in 2009, and Leeds in 2010.
So what is the secret ingredient for this success against such heavy favourites as the Rhinos have been on the occasions that Garreth has participated in their overthrow? Well, it may not be a secret ingredient, but certainly the common factor on each occasion, Garreth maintains, has been the confidence and solidarity which ran through the teams with whom he was playing. On this latest occasion it was the success of the previous season which inspired such confidence in them that they fully believed that they held the upper hand, and he is now convinced that you have to be brimming with confidence for every match in which you participate.
2011 saw the Wolves land the League Leaders’ Shield, but as seems to be common to the winners of that particular trophy, that they have then been unable to progress through the playoffs to the Grand Final. Garreth is firmly of the opinion that because of the prominence given to the Grand Final itself, there is now a real undervaluing of the feat of finishing top of the league, at the end of a full season of fixtures.
“People do not really appreciate the work that has gone on throughout the year to achieve this, and in particular the consistency that has to be produced week in and week out in order to finish top,” he maintains.
That consistency in causing the downfall of Leeds was shown, yet again, the following year with Warrington’s 2012 victory over the luckless Rhinos, though the Yorkshire men got their eventual revenge later in the year when they beat the Wolves in the Grand Final, at Old Trafford. The difference in the two encounters was, in Garreth’s opinion, down to the weather, with the warm fine conditions at Wembley suiting Warrington, whilst Leeds adapted better to the more wintry weather, in October.
Garreth’s final appearance for Warrington came the following year, when they once more returned to Old Trafford to face Wigan. This time a bad ankle injury to Stefan Ratchford, early in the game, severely disrupted the Wolves’ structure, of which the Warriors took sufficient advantage to win the game.
Coming now towards the end of his playing career, Garreth was tempted by a brief move to Bradford where he had expected to have taken up an element of coaching, as a precursor to moving into that field. Unfortunately, their financial troubles came to a head just at that time, and he opted to move for an equally brief return to Hull. Having put down his roots in Warrington, where all his family had become settled over the intervening five years, this necessitated a daily six hours of travelling, and the chance to shorten this, somewhat, came with an offer to join Castleford partway through the 2014 campaign.
His move there was just in time for him to be included in the team which put Wigan to the sword in the semi-final of the Challenge Cup, but, sadly, not in time to be included in the Wembley Final, as Daryl Powell, opted to go with the players who had been involved right through the tournament. Garreth, as a relative newcomer, was not among these, and, as he wryly tells me, no amount of pointing out his longstanding, successful, history over the Rhinos was sufficient to change the coach’s mind. In truth, though, he fully accepted that those long-serving players had earned their chance to savour the the occasion, and the thrills that is a Wembley Cup Final.
His keenly awaited move into coaching came with a move, during the close season to neighbours, Featherstone Rovers, where our former assistant coach, Andy Hay, provided him with his opportunity to get his foot on the first rung of the ladder, as coach to their reserve side, alongside his playing for the first team.
Much as he enjoyed his first venture into the world of coaching family circumstances, with a new baby on the way, made the travelling into Yorkshire far too demanding for him and his family. When he learned that the Salford Red Devils were on the lookout for a Players’ Welfare Manager, he decided to make himself available, thereby bringing down the curtain upon what must rank as a most impressive and enviable career in top flight rugby league, which should provide a near perfect model to any young of how to acquit oneself in such circumstances.