Technical talk helps Joe Winter thrive at Shelford
Prop reaches club landmark during campaign
Reaching a milestone is always a proud moment in a player’s career, and the 2016/17 campaign will be one for Joe Winter to use to illustrate his growing importance to Shelford.
The 26-year-old prop has blossomed in his third year at the Davey Field, despite the club’s mixed fortunes in trying to balance the home highs with the away-day blues in National League Three, London & SE.
But Winter marked a good individual season by making his 50th appearance for the first team in their win against Hertford in February, an indication of how he has worked on his game to make an impact.
Winter started playing his junior rugby at Bury, but then wanted to test himself higher up the pyramid and made the move to Cambridge.
Things did not quite work out, with injury an added complication that kept him out of the game for a spell, and, on his return, he headed back to Suffolk.
“I played for a season for Stowmarket to get myself back into the mindset of rugby really and back into training weekly and playing on a Saturday,” said Winter, who is currently out with a chipped collarbone.
“Especially in the front row, it’s quite an emotional thing as well really. You’ve got to be on the money really and it’s getting back into that mindset of playing.
“I did that for a season and our coach at the time, Nigel Brown, knew Gareth (Evans, the Shelford head coach) and put me in contact with him.
“We had a conversation and I arranged to come up here in pre-season, really enjoyed it and really liked what the club was doing and have stayed here ever since.
“I came on board and I was quite open with Gareth that I was looking to get back into playing a decent level of rugby.
“He really took me under his wing and we’ve done loads of stuff on coaching, scrum technique, line-out work and it’s paying off, definitely.”
That has proved crucial for Winter as, aside from his jovial and affable nature, one of the most striking things about him is his size.
Where you tend to think of props of being of the sturdier, thicker set type, Winter is relatively small for his position.
But he believes that his stature is more in tune with the modern demands of the sport.
“I used to be 18 to 18-and-a-half stone and there is just no need for it really in the modern game,” said Winter.
“It’s a lot better to be getting around the park, be making the tackles and carrying the ball. So I’ve trimmed down a little bit but trying to keep the strength as well, trying to get into the modern game as a prop.
“I think it’s fair to say that I’m probably one of the smallest props in the league.
“A lot of it is down to technique though in today’s game, and you get the right angle and right second row and flanker behind you, and as soon as everyone is pushing and you’re dropping, you’re dipping and you’re going, it’s very hard to stop.
“So technique is essential really. The biggest prop in the country, if they haven’t got the technique, they’re not going to go forward.
“It took a little while, and it’s just footwork really, and we’ve done a lot of scrum work.
“We’ve had some specialist coaches come down as well – a chap called the scrum doctor, Peter Bracken. He was really good on technique and when to push and when not to push and it’s definitely made my game a lot more rounded now.”
And there is nowhere else on the pitch that Winter would rather be than at prop.
“If you’re a big lad growing up you always get stuck in the front row and I wouldn’t play anywhere else,” he said.
“For me, it is the ultimate position on the park. I probably would say that but you get all the action, you are in every single restart, every single scrum, every single line-out.
“I wouldn’t play anywhere else really, and it’s essential in the game.”