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Joe Shaw Interview

By Mark H
February 8 2005

In the second of our pre-season interviews from the Media Day, I caught up with Joe Shaw - cup final hero to some, target of criticism for others.

Rumours were abound at the end of last season that Joe had seen the criticism that he had received from some posters on this site’s message board. In an effort to find out his side of the story, I began by asking Joe about that criticism…


To be honest, I’ve never gone near them [websites], because you know, they can either be great for you or they can be destructive, but through other people, like, it started when somebody said “oh, have you heard about this bloke”, and I was like “no, no”, and I thought I’d offended somebody, and then all of a sudden it just seemed like this guy was just trying to…it was just everything. There’s absolutely nothing to do, you’ve got to always take that people don’t like you or do like you but I just like to know, but this guy doesn’t…

Was it in your mind at all when you went through the posts? (Joe laughs) Our reaction, sitting in the East Stand, 14 of us in a row, we all said exactly the same thing, that’s Joe saying…

Not really, there was a lot of pressure on me at the time. I was trying to sort out what I was going to do for the next couple of years, whether I was going to stay, whether I was going to go. I’d spent like a month trying to get into the team, with Daryl, Walnut, Gollings, you know the list was endless. I was struggling with injury, will I play, won’t I play? In the end, I just thought, let’s go and do it, and when I was through the posts…I’d already decided that move, that move wasn’t supposed to go to me, but I thought “whatever happens I’m taking it”, and I did, and I got through the posts, and I’m not really sure…I only know what happened from watching the video, it was just an absolute blank, but that was a lot of emotion coming out, you know for the boys, but more for myself and my family with what we’d been going through for the last month or so. If I’m perfectly honest I don’t really feel anything for that guy…

So you’re here for another two years?

Yep, yep

What are the differences now, obviously you had two years at Northampton and you’ve extended the contract up here, what are the differences to here compared to down in Northampton?

I just feel very settled, I mean I’ve been at three clubs now, and it just feels like home, sometimes you find the place that you want to be shut away, and sometimes you don’t, and I just wasn’t particularly happy. It wasn't really with the playing, because I loved playing for Northampton, and I came up here…I’m big mates with Michael Stephenson, and I found Grindal was signing, and it felt right, and I came and it was right.

A very rocky first year with the team, because we didn’t do well as a group, but we did a little bit better last year, and this year we’re looking pretty sharp to be honest, so we’ll have to wait and see, but it just feels right, feeling more like home, enjoying the people, and enjoying the crowds and the fans, and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, bar one guy, this is without doubt the easiest place to get on, the nicest supporters, best supporters in the way they support you. If you have a bad game, they let you know about it, but they let you know in the way they come up and talk to you, they’re not stupid with it, and then go hiding like children, you know say something then go and hide, you know, they come and talk to you. They are very special and respectful, and the players respect the crowd.

Are you looking forward to working with Matt Burke, even though in effect he’s a rival for your position?

Yeah, I mean, again, people keep saying, I keep hearing this, Matt Burke, Matt Burke, he’s gonna just come and Joe Shaw’s gonna be really annoyed about it, but I’m not annoyed about it at all. My two heroes when I was growing up were Matt Burke and Christian Cullen - I’m playing against one in pre-season and I’m going to be playing with one for the next two years. To win the European Cup we’ve got to have a strong squad, I get injured, he gets injured, he just happens to be one of the best full backs that’s probably ever walked the earth, and the chances are that he’s going to be the starting full back.

There’s nothing I can do about that, all I’ve got to do is just work hard and learn as much as I can from him. There’s no anger or frustration - we’ve managed to capture the signing of one of the best players in the world, and he’s coming to our club to help us become a better club, and I’m going to be sitting there next to him. I’m going to be putting him under as much pressure as I have Walder, and Lilley and Gollings, and all these other people, and at the end I’ve come out on top of them most of the time, but this time it’s going to be slightly tougher, but he could get injured and as long as when I start or when I come on I give my best and I play well, I can hold my head up high and be proud to be a Falcon, I don’t really mind who I’m in competition with, it’s just one of those things, it’s the way the world goes.

Same question that I asked Matt, can we win that group?

Yeah, simple, yeah, yeah. I don’t need to…I’m not really sure I need to say any more. The group of players we’ve got are a very special group of players now. I don’t really want to say too much on it until we start playing because…there’s absolutely no reason with the way we’re going to play and with the group of players we’ve got that we can’t win that group and do ourselves proud in Europe. You’d be a mug to go in in the first year in Europe and say “right, we’re going to clear up everything”, it’s going to be very hard, but why bet against us? We’ve got possibly the best player in the world and a strong squad as well, very strong squad, so watch this space I suppose really.

Any worries about Worcester, because one or two people have suggested, with the away record last season, it could be a make or break game first up?

I don’t really think it’s a question of worrying about it, we’re going to take things one game at a time and the first game just happens to be the newly promoted team. They’re obviously going to be ready to impress people, they’re a new team put together, not a lot of them have played Premiership rugby before, again it’s in our hands, how we start and how we play, you can’t get out of the blocks slowly in this league, but at the same time, you can’t just go and expect to win anywhere, but I think we’d all be very, very disappointed if we didn’t start well at the beginning of the season at Worcester.

Great. Last question - what’s your main aspiration for the season, both on a personal level and for the club?

I want to…I want to play, to put people under as much pressure as possible to play, not just at full back, but in other positions as well. I’ve already had my goals set with Rob, basically it’s going to be another learning curve this year, away from full back as well, I’ve got to bide my time and not get frustrated, but I want to experience something like I experienced last year, which you know is probably the best day of my life in a sporting aspect, and I don’t think you can quite understand the feeling…I mean I could see the supporters were really, you know, couldn’t believe and really happy, but to be in something like that and to be under the pressure that I was personally and to come out the other side and say “right, up yours”, in a way to a couple of people but “thanks a lot for having me and supporting me and sticking up for me” and all that thing to the other nine thousand people that were there, you know, I just want to play well for them.

I want to play international rugby, don’t get me wrong, you do that by playing well for the Falcons and I just want to play well for the Falcons - I mean I just care about this place so much and the boys that are in it and the supporters as well, I’ve got a lot of good relationships with the supporters and I like to spend time with them - I think everybody knows that, but my main aspiration is just to do proud to all the people that put their faith in me, my parents and all that, and go out and play as solid as I can for the Falcons really, when I get the opportunity to do so.

Thanks Joe, all the best for the season.


And off he went, having been made late for training by me (sorry Joe). My overwhelming feeling doing the interview, and listening to it now, three weeks later, is that Joe Shaw is perfectly aware of what he can do well and what he can do not so well on a rugby pitch, and is trying his damnedest to get the latter up to the standard of the former. It’s quite obvious that he bleeds Falcons, and wants the same that we do - a successful, trophy winning side playing good rugby. And he’s a nice bloke too. It's also my impression, having watched him at Northampton and now at Newcastle, is that he thrives on support and encouragement. Let's hope he has plenty of success in the coming season.

Many thanks to Joe (and Matt Thompson) for sparing the time.

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