Joe Gadd: Hornets full-back looks back on his playing career following retirement
- Credit: Archant
Back in May the Hornets, just after being crowned champions of Tribute South West One West, announced their long serving full-back Joe Gadd had retired.
Having walked through the doors for the first time when he was six-years-old with his brother Jack, Gadd went onto make a total of 132 appearances and scored 66 tries for the club since making his debut as a teenager, including becoming named captain last summer where he took over from Rob Dempsey.
Now 28, Gadd is still involved with his hometown club as a coach, but as he looks back at when he first joined as a young boy, he reflects on his playing career with fond memories.
“It was massive,” began Gadd. “From when I came down when I was six-years-old – we tell this story in my family! – my dad forced me and my brother down because we didn’t want to come and 20 years later to be named the club captian was pretty special.
“I always had a running joke with everyone because some of the boys left to play at the highest level and my only aspiration was to get my name on the board at Hornets, because the Hornets means a lot to me and being the club captian was massive and it’s good to have that impact off the field as well as on the field.
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“That’s been key and as Matt (Parker) mentioned it’s like having two captains now. That’s what I’m going to carry on in a similar role, supporting Matt and making sure things happen off the field as well as on it.”
Following Gadd’s retirement Matthew Parker was appointed as his successor, but the former skipper recalled the number eight coming up to him to ask for his blessing to take over as the new captain.
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“He came and asked me, I had already put his name forward as my successor before he even needed to ask,” added Gadd.
“That shows the mutual respect we have. He didn’t have to ask my blessing, that’s for sure. All the boys follow him.
“He’s a great leader, you only have to come and watch him play to see he leads from the front.
“I am very much looking forward to working with him in a different capacity this year and he’s the right man to lead us forward.”
As Gadd looks back on his career his greatest moments span from consecutive promotions early on his career to get into the National League, but last season’s success was something he would never forget and he says it was down to one individual.
“Back when I first started playing in the seniors when I was 18/19 we had a really good squad and came up through two, three leagues straight away and had a good few years,” he said.
“But probably two, three years ago now we lost probably 10, 15 players to clubs at higher levels just because they were young lads and they wanted to try and play at a good level.
“We sort of struggled for the two years after that and Jon (Richardson) coming in at the start of last year, already a firm favourite, the man of the club who straight away bought the Hornets club mentality where everyone is playing for each other and he added to that with a couple of signings.
“It’s been brilliant and I couldn’t big him or Rob (Dempsey) enough, not just training and rugby but the real change in culture at the club.
“It’s a real proper grassroots club as you can imagine and it’s a really good place to be on a Saturday regardless of what rugby’s being played. That’s credit to them for bringing that mindset back.”
Despite celebrating promotion, where they will play in the South West Premier for the first time in two years, Gadd admitted it was a “bittersweet moment” for him personally and his decision to retire came about when he was thinking what was best for him and his family.
Gadd added: “I’ve had a few shoulder injuries before and this was the last one without doing it again.
“There’s no coming back from it. It was a bittersweet moment really but because of how the season ended I only missed the one game. It was weird way of winning it and bittersweet not playing myself.
“It’s a great club to be involved in and as a collective it was prize enough. I just came to that conclusion if I did it again would I really want to carry on?
“I’ve got a a baby boy coming on October 16, I don’t think I could cope with one arm because having the operations puts you out for three months.
“That’s not really practical with the way my life is going and going out and playing, the risk of doing it all the time.
“I had to put that to bed, it wasn’t an easy decision to make. We started pre-season and I was there in my coaching role.
“I still fully love it, it’s good being there with the boys. The only thing I’m not really missing is getting wet and muddy.”
Check out next week for part two of Joe Gadd’s interview where he will talk about his upcoming role.