Rob Vickers will make his 200th Falcons appearance this evening when he takes to the pitch at loose head prop.
A milestone that puts him in the company of the likes of fellow fan favourites Tom May and Micky Ward, it is a big achievement and one that fans will salute when he runs out this evening.
Vickers spoke with the official match day programme in the build up to the match against Harlequins in January about his career to date, with the following extracts shinign light on this club legend and stalwart.
“When you’re younger you play a game and the following day you can play again, but as you get older it takes two and three and four days to get the carcass all swung round and ready to go again!”
“To be honest though I don’t feel like that’s affecting my game; I feel great to play and they’re looking after and managing the older guys well which allows us all to be fresh and ready to go on game day.”
“I train with Scott Lawson which makes a big difference because we’re quite matched in what we’re doing. There’s no shying away from our ages but we’re definitely being well looked after.”
Vickers is also keen to credit Head of Conditioning Kevin McShane for his involvement in the training process, and in keeping every member of the squad match fit no matter what their age or position.
“Kev knows us and trusts that we know our bodies so if we say that we’re feeling great and want to push on a little bit he’ll let us go, or if we say that we’re tired and need to reign it in a little bit he lets that happen too. That’s come from working with him for a lot of years, and with understanding and respecting each other; neither of us demand things, we just talk and discuss and build a programme from there.”
With three tries to his name so far this season, the prop is developing a taste for important five pointers, even it they may not be amongst the team’s most expansive efforts, but as the front row comments, they all count!
“There are a lot of close range efforts on the score sheets – I’ll leave Sinoti Sinoti, Marcus, Alex and the rest of the backs to do all the fast stuff and we’ll each play to our strengths. My strength is to get into the gym and push over from a yard and a half maybe two… although they’re all worth the same number of points!”
The attacking brand of rugby for which they are becoming known may be amongst the more obvious changes to the Falcons set up in recent years, but Vickers is quick to highlight the evolution of the club overall in his decade at the stadium.
One of the most noticeable changes for Vickers himself was the move into a number one jersey after so many years at Hooker.
“It came about because I got a little bit older, a little bit fatter and a little bit slower. The coaches wanted a dynamic, running hooker who would win all of his line outs, and I didn’t tick any of those boxes at that particular time,” the Falcons’ stalwart jokes. “But again, without Micky Ward I don’t know if that would’ve happened, because his experience allowed me to learn something different.
“I played Prop as a schoolboy and moved to Hooker at University when I was about 13 stone wet through and too small to be a Prop. I work with some Under 15s in Durham and keep telling them that they’re still a few years away from their full physical development so don’t know where they’ll end up. There’s every chance they’ll change position, and those who may be a little bit behind right now could come through and change shape as they get older.
“That was true for me; I was 24 when I went full time, by which point I’d got up to a size close enough whereby I could train a little bit more and get the physical attributes I needed to have a go at this level. Then as I got older my body shape changed again and I still try and keep the running up but actually put a little bit of weight on there too and at the moment Prop is what’s working for me.”
Having enjoyed many years at Kingston Park, it seems fitting his 200th appearance comes at home, with the home crowd a significant factor for the Falcons, according to Vickers.
“It’s hugely important to play well at home, not only for picking up points when you have that advantage of knowing your surroundings, but also for keeping the fans coming in. We want as many people here as possible and if we’re playing good rugby and winning games then there’ll be more people coming back, which is hugely important.
“It’s the old cliché but the home crowd make a huge difference to any club and it’s the same here. When you start your warm up lap and hear the South Stand roar or come out of the tunnel and you see the West Stand full of people it makes a huge difference to players.
“Against Bath at the start of the year you could feel the crowd pushing you on, and playing to the South Stand at the end they just sort of draw you in there, which is great.
Tickets for tonight’s game are still available, with prices starting from £15 for adult standing and £25 for adult seating if booked before 5pm.
Ticket sales will continue up until kick off and can be bought by clicking here, calling 0871 226 6060 or visiting the Kingston Park box office.