Falcons club captain Will Welch is amongst six players shortlisted for Newcastle Falcons’ Heineken Fans Star of the Season Award 2015.
It may have been a frustrating year for the Falcons results-wise but there’s no denying that the 2014/15 season has seen a great deal of progress for the club both on and off the field.
One man whose personal progress has been evident to even the most casual supporter is Will Welch, now in his third year as club captain.
“I’m far more comfortable in the role now. You’re only as strong as the leaders you have around you and I’m fortunate to have a good set of them like Scotty (Lawson), Hoggy and others around me.
“I think I’ve learned a lot in the past three years, especially the Championship year, and more importantly the last year in the Premiership because it’s a different environment and different pressure. I’m enjoying the role and I feel like it’s going relatively well for me.”
Just 22 when he was originally named as club captain at the start of the Falcons’ Championship season, Welch remained one of the youngest skippers in the Premiership upon his club’s promotion back to the top flight the following summer.
“I think when I first started I was probably over-thinking it too much. Now I’m used to it I can focus more on the performance and delegate a lot to the players around you which is important.
“But like I said, it’s not just down to one player. If you have a lot of leaders around you they can take responsibilities elsewhere. Then when you’re on the pitch you’ve got a lot of leaders on there and some are in charge of attack or defence which makes your job a lot easier in terms of talking to the referee.”
With many quick to criticise referees during many of the Falcons’ games this term, how does the Falcons’ own link man to the officials find his experience with the man in the centre?
“They’re all different and some are more approachable than others. Generally it’s the ones that are pretty good like your Wayne Barnes’s who will have a chat with you whereas the ones who are maybe not as confident and are trying to concentrate on their performance will get a bit flustered when you try to talk to them.
“You’ve got to have that balance and we do our homework before the games as to what type of referee we have, how they react to decisions and their traits so from that point of view you learn before you go out how you’re going to approach them and what you’re going to do.”
And it’s not just as captain that Welch has shone this term, with the back row having already tripled his previous season’s try scoring tally with three tries throughout the season.
“I don’t think I’ve scored that many tries in my life! And all off the back of rolling mauls I think. It’s always nice to get over the line but for me I’d much rather make a good tackle or a good turnover rather than scoring a try if I’m honest.
“I think a lot of back rowers would probably say the same thing; if you’re a winger then your mindset is completely different and you want to get over that line.
So is the try scoring tally something he’ll be looking to build upon again in future?
“Six next year would be nice! It’s great to get three tries but it’s not too many, especially given that I just fell over the line for these ones! To be honest though I wouldn’t care if I didn’t score in fifty games if it meant we won half of them, or won a lot more games than we have this year, that’s the most important thing.”
Although the results may not have been so forthcoming this year there’s no denying that Falcons’ performances have continued to improve throughout the current term.
“You can see the steps we have taken performance-wise, the attacking rugby that we’re playing, it’s just about piecing it all together for 80 minutes and getting that win all the boys are working so hard for.
“We’re getting to the level that we want to it’s just a question of not slipping up with simple mistakes that let teams back into the game. That means we start chasing the points and ultimately don’t get the result, which is part of the learning curve we’ve had this year and next year we’ll be far stronger for it.”
But amidst a season of big performances, what has been the Newcastle-born captain’s highlight?
“The one that stands out for me is the Exeter game because of in terms of where they are you can see that this year, they’re pushing for top four and have had a good run in the cup.
“They’re in a very strong place and I thought the way that we played and the way that we handled them out here shows the lengths we have come. They’re a top 4, top 6 team every year in my opinion from now on and that just shows if we put in an 80 minute performance we can turn over top teams like that.”
Now named alongside five of his team mates in contention for the Falcons’ Heineken Fans Star of the Season award, Welch admits that simply being shortlisted is a big honour.
“It’s great to even be in contention for the award, especially alongside some of the other guys who’ve been named. For me I think the season’s gone OK. Obviously I had a bit of an injury around Christmas time but I thought I was playing fairly well before that, then up to the end of the year I think I’ve been playing alright.
“I’ve still got a bit to learn and obviously working with Wellsey in certain areas. My main focus is playing well for Newcastle, especially as next year there’s going to be a lot more competition for places so that’s got to be the sole focus.”
So who would be the former RGS pupil’s star of the season?
“Sinoti. It’s probably an easy one this year, he’s alright isn’t he?!” He jokes. “When you’ve got a player like that in the team you have got a chance against anybody because he is a game breaker and there’s not many of them about.
“When he gets his hands on the ball you have to second guess what he’s going to do, although he’s always going to do something! I’d be surprised personally if he wasn’t up there, if not winning the overall Premiership player of the year, because every team he’s came across from top to bottom he’s run riot and he’s been outstanding all year round.
“His feet, his speed, his power is just ridiculous and when you have someone like that in your team you’re pretty much capably of beating anyone on a good day.” And with just two games left of the current term, what is captain Welch hoping to see from his team for the remainder of the 2014/15 season?
“Hopefully two wins, that’s our aim. Everyone was gutted after that Gloucester game, and again that’s a huge learning curve for us as a group but our main focus for these last games is to get two good wins. Getting a good win away at Sale and then finishing with a win in front of our home crowd, that will be good to go into next year.”
Is Will Welch your Newcastle Falcons Heineken Fans Star of the Season? Votes are open until 5pm on Friday 15th May for fans to cast their votes and be in with the chance of winning two tickets to the club’s end of season celebration and award ceremony on 19th May at Kingston Park.
Click here to cast your vote and enter the competition to win this and other prizes. Each fan is allowed one vote per day up to and including the final deadline.