‘My Life in Rugby League’ for League Express with Quins’ Danny Orr in 2007. Orr moved back to Castleford in time for the 2011 season.
How are things going for you in London?
It’s a great environment down here. I’ve been lucky to have played in some very good Castleford and Wigan sides with fantastic team spirit and it’s the same here. We’re a close-knit group and we look out for each other. It’s going really well for me and I’m based in a nice part of London.
How did your move to Harlequins come about?
I had a meeting with Brian Noble at Wigan after they’d signed Trent Barrett and Thomas Leuluai so it appeared that my chances would be limited. I was given the impression that they would be first choice. I spoke to a few clubs, and some came in with an offer, but having spoken to Brian McDermott and Tony Rea, I knew that joining the Quins would be a great challenge. So even though there were other options, I didn’t want to leave them waiting especially after the way they’d treated me. It felt right, so I went for it.
Given that you moved down there before your family, was it difficult to settle in?
Yes, it was tough. I was placed with Sione Faumuina – who left shortly afterwards – and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook. I was lucky to be with some good lads and I travelled back to Wigan whenever I could but it wasn’t easy with my wife and kids back in the north. It took me a while to find a house, I must have looked at about 50, but once I found one we sold up in Wigan and the family moved down.
How did you feel when you heard that Solomon Haumono and Faumuina had walked out during pre-season?
It didn’t help but what can you do about it? Good luck to them in what they choose to do though. But it’s given some younger guys like Louie, who reminds me of a young Stuart Fielden, and Michael Worrincy a chance and we’ll benefit from that.
You’ve had some more bad luck recently with the news of Rob Purdham’s injury. He’s been fantastic this season hasn’t he?
Yes, he has. We lost those guys at the start of the year then Rob and Daniel Heckenberg and a few others like Henry Paul and Scott Hill have had periods out of the game. We’ve done quite well though and with nine games to go, we’re looking to kick on even further.
How did you get into Rugby League all those years ago?
My dad was a professional player years ago so that was a major factor. I also remember being in the car with my mum one day and we drove past some kids playing and I thought that I’d give it a go. I was seven-years-old at the time and joined an Under-13s side. That was at Kippax. Being so young, I’d be a sub and come on for a few minutes. It wasn’t too physical for me, I didn’t think of it from that point of view. I just loved being involved. Then when I got older, I played fullback or wing then scrum-half. Finally, my dad moved me to stand-off and I stayed there.
Which Cas players do you remember watching?
There was John Joyner, Grant Anderson and Graham Steadman. It was late eighties and early nineties and I used to go to all the home games and quite a few away games. About eight or nine of us would play at Kippax in the morning and then head down to watch Cas in the afternoon. I remember them thrashing Wigan in the Regal Trophy final in 1994. 33-2 it was. That was a great day for the club and the team was outstanding.
How did you progress into the professional game?
When I started to watch Cas when I was seven or eight, I thought that it was something I’d love to do but I didn’t actually think it would happen. When I got older it became more of a possibility. My dad was Leeds Academy coach and I trained there a few times but nothing more. He then went to Castleford and coached the Academy for a number of years and he took a few of us down from Kippax. We won the Academy Championship and it just went from there for me. I did two seasons in the Academy and I moved into the first team when Tony Smith left for Wigan in 1997. The club didn’t have another halfback so in I went.
That can’t have been an easy introduction to the first team because you were marooned at the bottom of Super League for three-quarters of the season.
That’s right. I was still working as a glazer for a few years but when I went into the first team I got a bit more money. I remember thinking the winning bonus would make the difference but it took us absolutely ages to win! Something like 13 weeks I think it was. But Stuart Raper came along and turned things around. We avoided relegation and finished the season very strongly. We beat Halifax and Bradford in the end of season play-off and then led Saints 18-2 at Knowsley Road but lost out in the end. But it was a massive turnaround.
Over the next couple of season you had some good Challenge Cup runs and did well in the 1999 Super League play-offs.
Yes, it was Andrew Schick who scored a late at Headingley to knock Leeds out of the Cup and, in the next round, we beat Bradford who were still Super League champions. Then we lost to Sheffield when we were favourites for once. The following year we got to the semi-final and lost in the most heartbreaking circumstances when they scored well into injury time. I kicked a late drop goal to level the scores but they went for a short kick-off which came up for them and Steele Retchless scored. There were some guys in tears in the changing rooms, including me. I remember Stuart Raper telling me that I was only young and that I’d get there one day. Then, in the end of season play-offs, we won in the first ever game at the JJB Stadium and them turned Leeds over at Headingley. We were buzzing at that point but Saints were too good for us again in a semi-final and they went on to win the Super League. But when I look back on those few years, the semi-final against London was the one that got away.
For the next few years, you remained a mid-table side. Was it frustrating not quite being good enough to really challenge for the trophies?
Yes, it was frustrating. We made the play-offs a couple of times after 1999 but it was one step too far.
Was that your main reason for joining Wigan?
Yes, I think everyone wants to win medals and I’m no different. The opportunity came to join Wigan and I went for it although leaving Cas was the biggest decision of my life.
After you left Cas, how hard was it to see them being relegated in 2004?
It was very hard to watch and very disappointing. I still knew so many people there and the fans had been so good to me during my time there. I just had to get on with my job at Wigan though.
You say you went to Wigan to win medals but it didn’t happen. How do you look back on your time there?
In the first year, we got to a Challenge Cup final and a play-off semi-final. We had a really good squad in 2004 and we did well but we lost a lot of good players at the end of the year and we didn’t bring enough players in for 2005. It wasn’t that we weren’t good enough in 2005 – the squad just wasn’t big enough to cope with all the injuries. When you’re down to your bare bones, you’ll struggle and we didn’t make the play-offs. People remember the record defeats at Leeds and St Helens in successive weeks but in my defence I played in neither! However, as a squad, we really came together and played quite well at the end of the year.
And what about last year? Surely one of the most bizarre years in Wigan’s history…
It was pretty strange but although we were five points adrift at one stage, we knew we’d be OK. We had a fair bit go against us, not least the deduction of points for the salary cap infringement but at no stage did we panic. The fixture list was pretty kind towards us at the end though; we had some very winnable home games and our crowds were fantastic. But we also won at Leeds, so it wasn’t just that home form that got us safe. We got stuck in and towards the end of the season, we were probably the only team capable of beating St Helens but we’d left ourselves too much to do in order to reach the play-offs.
You were there for three years and played under a number of different coaches. How disruptive was that?
I think there were four coaches: Mike Gregory, Denis Betts, Ian Millward and Brian Noble. As well as that, I had about five halfback partners so it wasn’t easy. But you just get on with it and do your best although it wasn’t ideal. The only frustration was that I had a lot of injuries at Wigan. I’d barely been injured at Castleford, but it was a different story at Wigan. It’s part of the game, though, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
What were the highlights of your international career?
2002 was pretty good against the Kiwis in the drawn series. Everybody wants to represent their country and I’m proud to have done so. It’s something that can never be taken away from me.
Do you still have international ambitions?
I’d never say never and I’d jump at the chance to get back in but it seems that they’re moving towards younger players and I’m 29 now. But, fingers crossed. You never know.