Former England International Walder getting a real kick out of coaching

Dave Walder is not a man used to doing things in half measures, so it should come as no great surprise that three months after announcing his intention to go into coaching, he already has four jobs on the go

Phil Godman in action during Falcons training at Kingston Park
Phil Godman in action during Falcons training at Kingston Park

Dave Walder is not a man used to doing things in half measures, so it should come as no great surprise that three months after announcing his intention to go into coaching, he already has four jobs on the go.

Taking over from Michael Stephenson at Percy Park, the former England fly-half has also taken up a part-time position with British student champions Durham University, a similar post with Royal Grammar School and now a role as kicking coach with Newcastle Falcons.

The unpaid job at Kingston Park provides a valuable foot in the door for what the former Premiership and Heineken Cup winner hopes will be a successful career in coaching, and he knows he has to start somewhere.

Last week’s 21-21 draw with Bath in Beziers suggested the early labours are beginning to bear fruit, Phil Godman striking a pair of touchline conversions as well as a pressure kick a minute from full-time to draw the sides level. His kicking from hand, as well as that of Joel Hodgson, bore all the hallmarks of Walder at his best, but the man himself is playing down his contribution.

“It all just started from having a chat with Dean Richards, the Falcons’ director of rugby,” said Walder, the 35-year-old who was instrumental in Newcastle’s 2001 and 2004 Cup final victories before moving on to a hugely successful spell at London Wasps.

Now retired due to knee problems after two seasons in Japan, he revealed: “Dean just said to me that, seeing as I was in the area, I was welcome to come in and kick with the lads. It kind of developed from there, and I am now doing three mornings a week with the fly-halves and full-backs, the centres and the scrum-halves.”

The enthusiasm with which Walder is tackling life after retirement is typical of a man for whom motivation has rarely been in short supply, although the blow of being told he would never play again was never going to be an easy one.

“As a professional player you get a presentation from the Rugby Players’ Association every year, telling you that you should be thinking long-term about your future,” he said.

“Like most guys I probably sat there with my head down, hoping it wasn’t me, but when you know, you really know.”

Given the news by medics at Japanese club Mitsubishi Dynaboars, Walder sought a second opinion from former Falcons team doctor and long-time friend Graeme Wilkes, saying: “I had a feeling my time was up even before I knew for sure, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

“I can’t complain, though. I had a 15-year career playing for some great teams, and now hopefully I can really kick on with the coaching side.”

Citing favourable impressions of his early time at Percy Park, the four-times-capped star said: “I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest. Obviously it is a lot different to what I am used to at the professional level, but they are a great bunch of lads and there are some very good players amongst them.

“The club is in fine health, and despite having a policy of not paying their players they have been promoted to National Three North. That is their highest ever league placing, and last season they were right up towards the top as well as retaining the County Cup.

“In terms of what the goal is for this season, the response I have had from the club is that they will play to the ability of the players. That is quite a refreshing way of looking at it, I suppose, but me being me I naturally want to come out and say the goal is for us to get promoted.

“We will not know how realistic that is until we get properly into the rugby, but it is a great traditional club and I have been really impressed by them.”

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