Newcastle Falcons players have been welcoming back a familiar face this week with Johnny Williams returning to training following his recent battle with testicular cancer.
Williams has completed his chemotherapy and began his season’s training with the club, team-mate John Hardie among the many welcoming him back into the fold.
He said: “Johnny’s peg is right beside mine in the changing room so I’ve been keeping his spot clean while he’s been away, and sending him a few messages.
“It’s great to have him back around the club, he’s a great player and we can’t wait to see his involvement increasing as the weeks and months go on.”
Co-captain Michael Young echoed those sentiments, saying: “I’ve got nothing but admiration for Johnny, and despite everything he’s been through he’s just so desperate now to get back playing again. He’s an inspiration to the whole squad.
“To say it’s fantastic to have him back with us would be an understatement. He’s been facing some really big challenges but he’s full of life, ready to go, and it’s just incredible how he has handled the whole thing.”
Director of rugby Dean Richards spoke of his delight at Williams’ return to the fold, the Falcons boss talking on both a rugby and personal level.
“Johnny has been through a torrid time from something totally unexpected and totally unrelated to rugby, but he’s coming through it,” he said.
“To have him back in the camp after going through what he has gone through, the boys are just delighted to see him around the place. We want to get him back out there doing what he does best and what he enjoys, and that’s playing rugby.”
Richards added: “Everyone was really concerned for him when we heard the news of his diagnosis earlier in the summer but he’s come out the other side, and hopefully he’ll be playing before too long.
“The first thing was just making sure that the people he wanted to know about it were made aware, and that it was kept within that group until he felt comfortable telling more people. As time wore on he became more aware that actually there’s a lot of good that can come from sharing his experiences, and through people being aware of his situation he has got a lot more support from them.
“It was obviously a big shock to him, as you’d expect, but the thing from our side was just to make sure he knew that he had our full support in every possible respect.
“I’m just so pleased to see him back at the club now, taking part in the chat with the lads and the usual carry-on that comes with being involved in any team sport. It’s such a big part of your life when you’re a sportsman, and it must be hard to not have that.
“I can’t even begin to imagine what he must have gone through, and by talking about it in public now he’s hopefully going to be some sort of help to the thousands of people who are going through a similar thing.”