AFTER 13 seasons and more than 200 appearances for Newcastle Falcons, scrum-half Hall Charlton has revealed he will join Blaydon as player-coach.
The 31-year-old is set to work under new director of rugby Micky Ward, his long-time Falcons team-mate, although he admits that life in the ‘real world’ is still taking some getting used to.
“It has been a little bit strange not going back in for pre-season training at Kingston Park five weeks after the last Falcons game, but in a way it has been nice,” said Charlton, who joined Jonny Wilkinson, Jamie Noon and Tom May in being voted Newcastle’s clubmen of the decade two years ago.
“I went away for a couple of weeks’ holiday, and I also have two of my mates’ weddings to go to overseas in the near future.
“It’s strange being able to go away to things like that, but I have still been training in the gym every day and trying to get my hamstring right for the start of the new season with Blaydon.” Assimilating to life outside of the Premiership bubble has already had its ups and downs for the former England Saxons and Sevens international, who received an early knock-back when applying for the director of rugby job at Newcastle University last month.
“It was my first proper job interview in 13 years and, in hindsight, it was probably too steep a learning curve so quickly after retiring as a full-time player,” he said.
“It was a good experience to go through the interview process though, and when Micky asked me to come down to Blaydon as player-coach it felt like the right sort of challenge.
“As well as that role I am also hoping to combine another part-time coaching position elsewhere in the region, and I should hear more this week about whether or not that is going to come off.”
Admitting that more than a decade on the Premiership treadmill had occasionally taken its toll, Charlton insists that his appetite for the game remains as fervent as ever, as he drops down two leagues to National One. “With the top-flight you can get caught up by the whole relegation scenario, and the pressure that is put on the players is so high these days,” he said.
“Sometimes that can take the enjoyment out of it, especially like last year when it was so close with Leeds, but I think without that hanging over my head every week I might end up playing a bit better.”
Resisting the urge to sever ties altogether with the sport, he added: “I always said that when I finished with full-time professional rugby, I wanted to keep playing. I thought maybe Premiership-wise the time was right to call it a day, and I am actually looking forward to dropping down a couple of levels.
“The way I am looking at it is that I have the best of both worlds, in that I am still playing competitive rugby but with more of a social element. Blaydon seems like the right place for me at the moment, and I am always somebody who has enjoyed the game.”
Revealing that the Crow Trees role will not be his first foray into coaching, Charlton said: “I am in the process of doing my RFU level three badge, and I will be finishing it off this time next year. As part of that I had a four-day intensive course last week, working all day and finishing around 7.30pm, but I enjoyed it and got a lot out of it.
“On top of that I helped coach at Westoe a couple of years ago, and last season I was working with the Northumberland Rugby Union taking their School of Rugby programme.
“It’s something I have always been interested in, and I’m looking forward to a new challenge now.”