Sedgley Park’s Matt Riley will be writing a number of blog posts for ncarugby.com as one of the club’s longest serving players discusses his journey in the game. (Photo Credit: Gareth Lyons)
Firstly, for anyone reading this, thank you!
For those of you who I have never met me, my name is Matthew Riley, sometimes called Riles or the Truck! I’m 33 and from a little chemical town in the North West called Widnes.
I am married to my amazing wife Niki and we have two energetic boys – Jackson (10) and Brody (7) Family is everything!
Why am I writing this?
Good question – I don’t really know!
I have struggled the last 10 months with a niggling foot injury and I have been fortunate throughout most of my career to have never really had long spells on the sidelines! Don’t get me wrong, I have played through most niggles! Few pain killers + adrenaline and you’re sweet! Until the tablets and adrenaline wears off haha!
Maybe I had taken playing on a Saturday for granted. So many past and present teammates have been injury prone and I’ve watched them rehab for months/years on end and never really thought anything of it until last season that is…Must have been mental torture for them, because it was for me!
I’ll get onto my injury and struggles in my later blog posts, but like any good story, let’s begin right at the start…!
Where it all started…
Rugby wasn’t really a choice in our family! My Dad, Graham or Crack as he is more commonly known, has been a scrum half at Widnes RUFC (the Wids) for the past 52 years!
Yes, he is still playing at the ripe old age of 68… still fit as a fiddle from his constant road running and bike rides! He’s a massive inspiration to me and my three brothers… He’s an absolute legend yet so humble! One of the main reasons I play rugby is to make him proud.
Mum and Dad had four boys who all played various sports, but mainly rugby! They dedicated their life ferrying the four of us to various venues for training, trials and matches for years on end!
I know how hard it is just coordinating two boys playing rugby who are playing in different parts of the North-West on a Sunday morning so managing four children must have been a military operation for my parents!
I started playing Rugby League for Halton Hornets – a junior rugby league side in Widnes – as a 6-year-old! Funnily enough, it is the same side my two boys currently play for on a Sunday morning! I love watching them play and having fun and I can already see them building friendships through rugby which will hopefully last as long as some of the friendships I have made in the game.
I played for the Hornets right through to U16s until we folded through lack of players! It’s a funny old time when lads get to 16!
Lots of lads start chasing women and booze and fall out of love with playing sport! Sad really, but I went the other way…
I loved rugby and used to train and play as much as I could, as well as cycling and road running! I was a little lighter as a kid and was fit!
During my 10 years playing junior rugby league, I was lucky enough to play for various representative sides including Widnes schoolboys, North-West Counties and Lancashire! Playing against other representative sides was the next level up from club rugby!
James Graham + James Roby were St Helens lads, but we played together a few times over the years! Little did I know at the time the careers they would go on to have! They are both rugby league superstars and deserve every plaudit that comes their way!
Introducing our new feature! Highlighting the commitment of individuals throughout the National Leagues. First up is @SedgleyTigers' Matthew Riley who has notched up an impressive 333 appearances! 🙌🏻#NCAStalwart #Nat2N @sedgleytruck pic.twitter.com/aoBmSwXwgS
— NCA Rugby (@nca_rugby) October 17, 2018
One lad I was lucky enough to play with for most of my time in kids rugby was Michael Bowles and he was my best friend from school! He played for a rival side in Widnes to start with but saw the light and joined the Hornets!
We are still best friends to this day and I firmly believe team sports like rugby are not only brilliant for kids in regards of teaching them discipline, respect + integrity, but they also help create friendships and memories that last a lifetime! 100% the best thing about rugby for me is the people you meet along your journey.
From 16, I started playing rugby union at the Wids, as well as playing rugby league for Widnes Vikings u17s. I had played bits of Union in school and quite enjoyed it so decided to give it a crack!
There was a lot of school friends playing at the Wids so it was a smooth transition! I had a year at u16s, then a year playing colts (u19s) when I was 16!
This was the year that will always stand out for me!
We played Saturday’s against sides mainly from North Wales and we travelled in a minibus together and every Saturday would be similar! We’d string together a side from the least hungover lads who had been boozing on the Friday!
Beers on the bus back with our coach Jimmy O’Neill driving, sing song in the club house then down to the local night club “Top of the Town” for happy hour! 10 pints of Diesel for £11! End of season tours to the Isle of man and Dublin were the little incentives that kept lads turning up!
It was during this year I managed to get selected to tour Ireland with Lancashire U18s! My first bit of representative rugby as a union player!
Sale Sharks academy coaches James Wade and Mark Nelson where on that tour and I managed to make a good account of myself and they stayed in touch for the next year to follow my progress! This will become more apparent in my next blog post.
In 2003, just as I turned 17, they changed the rules for how old you had to be to play first team rugby to 17 from 18! Bonus for me! My eldest brother Gaz played for the first team at the Wids and they had a great young talented side mixed in with a few experienced players.
I had been water boy for a few years and had always hoped to break into the first team at some point, but it came a little earlier than I expected!
Andy Ruane was coach at the time, he was an ex pro rugby league player who had coached me at Halton Hornets for a short time. We had a successful year and managed to win the league in that 03/04 season! I played each game – at centre and full back!
It was level seven rugby if I remember correctly and it gave me a great introduction to adult rugby.
I am still in contact with so many of that side! We try to get up to the club to watch the Wids play whilst sharing a few beers together as often as we can!
They are a top bunch of lads – talented players but also great characters off the field which is what amateur social rugby is all about!
Me and my mate Lamby would do plenty of road runs together for extra fitness – often sprinting the last mile! Oh, to be 17 again haha!
Well, that was an introduction into my first experiences of the game. If you enjoyed this snippet, stayed tuned to ncarugby.com for my latest posts over the next few weeks.