ONE OF the biggest influences on Daryl Powell’s rugby league career was a man called Walt Watts.
He revealed in an interview with The Yorkshire Post a couple of years ago how his coach at Castleford amateur club Redhill was instrumental in not only giving him belief as a player but, later, his own desire to coach, too.
Powell spoke fondly of this “dyed-in-the-wool rugby league man from Airedale” whose “ingrained” love of rugby league rubbed off on him and inspired him so much.
A latecomer to the sport, Powell only played one season under Watts at Redhill Under-18s before signing professionally with Sheffield Eagles. However, such was his impact that, when he later represented Great Britain, one of his Test jerseys promptly arrived at Walt’s door.
Not just any Test jersey, mind. It was the shirt worn when Powell helped Great Britain beat Australia at Wembley in 1990, one of the rarest and most memorable victories of the modern era. With Walt having sadly passed on, it now belongs with his grandson – Liam Watts.
The hulking prop, of course, has just signed this week with Castleford Tigers where, with one of those strange little twists, Powell is now head coach.
Obviously, the transfer from Hull FC hasn’t been without a smidgen of controversy.
Hull made the surprise decision to sell on the popular Watts who has been a mainstay of their improving side for some time.
Although he has a wretched recent disciplinary record – the 27-year-old’s currently serving a three-game ban after a fourth red card in just 11 months – Hull boss Lee Radford said it was unreported off-field issues that prompted them to part ways.
Watts, for his part, maintains he does not know what the problem is or was. Both camps have had their say this week but, as with many of these cases, it is always likely the truth lies somewhere in the middle of it all.
However, only Watts knows, at heart, if he could have strived any more at Hull.
The important thing now is, whatever the rights and wrongs of how this move panned out, that Watts makes the most of the glorious chance in front of him.
Many people think he should already be an England player. He isn’t but certainly has plenty of the requisite attributes.
A strong carrier who can bust tackles and offload brilliantly in tight situations, the former Hull KR man has a great work-rate in defence, too, and long been rated one of Super League’s top front-rows. Yet sporadic brain-explosions stand-out almost as much as his moments of brilliance.
That is not just the ludicrous dismissals like his recent red card for – in Radford’s words – ‘a pathetic headbutt’ on Warrington’s Dom Crosby. There has also been the incomprehensible wayward offloads in his own 20m area when protecting a slender lead or those needless, irritating penalties.
As boring as it may sound, not even Wayne’s World eponymous character, nevermind the no-nonsense Wayne Bennett would include such a player in an England side if those traits continued: you cannot afford such transgressions at international level.
But Watts, if he truly desires, can iron out all of those issues and, at last, fulfil his potential. Powell can help him do that.
Indeed, Watts might one day be able to return the compliment made to his late grandfather and drop in one of his own Test jerseys at Powell’s door. But, truthfully, most of the work lies at his.