Joe Mellor Is Proud Of Career

Joe Mellor Is Proud Of Career widnesvikings.co.uk
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18th August 2017

Widnes Vikings star Joe Mellor recently achieved his 150th career game. He shares his journey to the Super League and how 21 years after first playing the game, he still gets the same buzz every time he laces his boots to play.

“I was about five, when I first started playing rugby. My brother, Ben, is two years older than me, so I just followed him. As kid, I was exactly like I am now – I liked having the ball in my hand, running about.

“I never took it too seriously as a kid, I just played rugby because I loved it. They were the best times, just going out and playing to have fun, not thinking about winning or losing.

“Playing Super League it is a lot of fun, I love it, but it’s serious too. I still just try and go out there and play my game. That’s what I’ve taken from being a kid – ‘go out there and do your best, because that’s all you can do’.”

It was when Joe was selected for his local town team, that he began to consider that his passion could become a profession.

“When I was 10, I was called up to the Warrington Service Area team. That was really special, because you were made to feel like a player. You had a ball and water bottle that you had to take to training, and every Saturday morning you’d get dressed in the team jumper, shirt and tie. On Sundays, when Warrington played at home, you’d get to be a ball boy for them too.”

“Having experienced those big match days and been part of a team environment at that age, I started to think ‘I want to do this when I’m older’. My favourite player was Henry Paul, so I wanted to be like him.”

As Joe progressed through the youth system he began to attract the attention of scouts and realised that if he continued to work hard, he could achieve his dream.

“I was at Warrington Academy until sixteen and I heard that clubs were interested in me. It was exciting to think ‘a club might come looking at me, if I stick at this and give it a good go’.”

Joe joined Wigan Academy at 16, moving to their reserves at 18. Reflecting on this experience, he believes that the environment at the Warriors and the challenges he faced in his early career gave him the mental fortitude needed to thrive in the Super League. 

“Wigan was a good experience. Even at reserve level, I was with players who’d had a lot of Super League action under their belt. I wasn’t the biggest – I’m still not – so I knew that I needed to front up and give everything I had. That experience gave me mental toughness.”

Unfortunately for Joe, just one month after signing for Wigan, he suffered a fractured kneecap in a freak accident in training. Aged just 19, he was faced with what could have been a career changing injury.

“I was out for almost the whole season. That was a dead year, but it still taught me a lot about staying positive and focussed. Even though it was really serious, I didn’t dwell on it. I was worried that I’d lose my speed, but other than I was so busy with my rehab that I couldn’t think about it. That injury made me who I am today.”

Mellor is Widnes Vikings’ Co-Captain, and a vital leader in the squad. He says that his experience with injury means he can support his teammates when they face similar challenges.

“When our lads have had tough injuries, I’ve been able to say that ‘you can come back, but you need to be dedicated, focus on yourself and do everything possible to get better’. It’s tough but you have teammates around you, and they help too.”

In the 2011 season, Joe recovered from injury and went out on loan to London Broncos, making his first Super League appearance in their game against St Helens. Ironically, this debut took place at the Halton Stadium, St Helens’ temporary home during the construction of the Langtree Park Stadium.

As much as he valued the on-field experience, Joe says that the test of moving to a new environment at a young age made as lasting an impact. 

“I was 20 and was living at home with my mum and dad. I’d never cooked anything before, other than Chicago Town pizza, and I had ended up moving to London. It was a good experience, it really opened my eyes.”

When his loan spell in the capitol came to an end, Joe made a move that would define his next six years – joining Widnes on dual-registration for the remainder of the season. He played 14 games for the Vikings in their final season in the Championship, finishing the year by making three top flight appearances with his parent club, Wigan.

“I was really excited to join Widnes on loan. I had the opportunity to play every week, which is all I wanted. It was tough though, I’d be training with Wigan all day, then I’d go and train with Widnes at night. I’d have a game for Widnes on the Thursday night and then be back in training for Wigan on Friday. It was challenging, but it all paid off.”

In 2012, Joe returned to Widnes on a month-long loan, which was ultimately extended for the season. The following year, he joined the Vikings permanently, establishing himself as a pivotal member of the Vikings’ attack and a respected ambassador for the Club.  

“I’ve really enjoyed my five years at Widnes and I’m really proud to have played so many games here. My only goal has been to improve each year and to be as good as I possibly can be, and I think I’ve done that.”

“There’s been lots of highlights. Scoring a hat-trick against Saliford at the Etihad, in a game with such a big atmosphere, is something I’ll never forget.”

For many supporters, Joe’s time at the Vikings is best defined by his late drop goal against Leeds Rhinos at Headingley last season, which secured the Vikings’ place in the Super 8s. For Joe too, this ranks amongst his greatest moments.

“That was special. It was the first drop goal I’d ever attempted, so it felt amazing when it paid off. That’s probably the only moment of my career when I’ve thought ‘wow, that was special, I did that’. I knew what it meant to the club and the Members, it was massive.”

Having played 150 games, 146 of which were for the Vikings, Joe has much more to achieve and many more big nights to come. As someone who is understated about his achievements, his goal for the future is a simple one:

“If I can get to 300 games, that’ll be perfect and I think I’ll achieve it. Playing rugby league is tough enough and if you can have a good career, that’s something to be proud of. I’m excited for what comes ahead.”

Don't miss Joe's 151st game this weekend! Widnes Vikings take on Featherstone Rovers on Sunday, 3pm. Be there to support the boys! 

There are just four copies of 'Aglow in the Dark', the limited edition print of Joe Mellor's famous 2016 drop goal, available. Visit the Vikings Superstore, Tesco Extra, Widnes, to purchase this special item. 

Joe Mellor Is Proud Of Career widnesvikings.co.uk