John Mooney: The Great Game!
Who is John Mooney?
How many times have you read a match report on GRM and asked yourself this same question? John shares the same passion and enthusiasm for the sport as I do. Regularly stood on the sideline, team sheet in one hand, notepad in the other, you don't have to be an avid follower of Grassroots Rugby Media to stumble on one of his match summaries. GRM was still in its infancy when I met John for the very first time, and his involvement in the platform has played a key role into what it has developed into today.
With 60 years of Rugby experiences to share, I recently caught up with John to discuss his Grassroots story, and here's what he had to say:
1. What is your background in sports and writing?
"I had a full page, horse racing and greyhounds, as a freelance in the Hull Sports Mail for ten years. I was racing correspondent (The Duke' in the Yorkshire Post for about ten years; and Racing Editor at the Press Association company Racing Pages. I still write racing previews for Sky Sports/ Sky Bet"
2. You've covered tons of rugby games, long before your involvement in GRM. what motivates you to cover amateur rugby?
" I love the game but am becoming disillusioned by Super League as it's becoming more and more physical and less skilful and entertaining. The amateur game has as much skill, just lacks the physicality".
3. What is your earliest rugby memory?
"I have been watching the game for over 60 years. Earliest memories are of watching Johnny Whiteley and the famous Hull pack taking on the likes of Wigan and St Helens at the Boulevard. It was fantastic watching the likes of Tom Van Vollenhoven, Billy Boston and Neil Fox as a youngster. They inspired me to play myself"
4. Do you follow any professional clubs?
" I have supported both Hull clubs. I dislike the vitriol between supporters (don't mind the banter though). There have been numerous players and officials representing both clubs. Names like Whiteley, Hutton, Sullivan, J Drake, Flanagan, Bunting, Casey, Rose and dozens more so supporters should respect that fact".
5. In your opinion, what makes a good game of rugby?
" Two teams well coached, fully committed with strong discipline and, just as importantly, well refereed".
6. Are there any notable fixtures which you can say are the best you have ever seen?
" Castleford v Hull KR Cup replay at Wheldon Road, about 1967. John Taylor had gone to Cas, Phil Lowe was just starting out at Rovers, fans on the roof and gates closed. Rovers lost but fantastic game. The 1959 Second Ashes Test at Headingly, my first Test match. GB had lost the first and Johnny Whiteley was brought back for the second and scored the winning try right in front of me. GB won the Final Test to win the Ashes.
7. Do you think amateur rugby is changing for the better or worse?
"I think the game is very similar to when I played in the 60's though players are much fitter. Unfortunately in Hull, attendances have dropped alarmingly since the advent of summer rugby and there isn't the same commitment from players, especially to away games. It would also be nice to see some of the professionals attending matches".
8. Can you name some notable players who have impressed you in the NCL?
"Jamie Field at Hunslet Parkside is an obvious one. I also like Siddal's fullback Gareth Blackburn and last year Freddie Williams, who won Premier Division player of the year. Fran King of Wath Brow is a classy half-back and locally Myton's Natty Slater scores tries for fun. Beverley have a real classy forward in Alex Starling while at West Hull I don't think there's a better forward in the game than Ryan Wilson I was impressed with Scott Mountain when watching Skirlaugh recently".
9. If you could change one thing in Rugby, what would it be?
" I hate the 'five drives and a boot in the air' scenario. I'd find a way to change that and some of the tackling now has got brutal, which is why there are so many injuries"