I spoke to John Stankevitch for Thirteen when he announced his playing retirement from Rugby League at the end of the 2005 season. He now coaches Rochdale Hornets.
John, we’re sorry to hear of your retirement from rugby league.
Thanks. The shoulder injury stems from 2003 and it just hasn’t improved. It’s stopped me performing at my best. I’ve tried to get my best form back but it hasn’t happened unfortunately. A specialist has advised me that I could lose use of my right arm if I carried on playing.
So, what does the future hold for you?
I’ll be running a bar in Widnes from November. I’ve got my coaching badges so I’m looking at staying on at Widnes with the under 18s and I’m also training to become a financial advisor after Christmas, so I’ll be pretty busy. I’ve been preparing for my long term future for a couple of years now so it hasn’t been too much of a shock for me.
What have been the highlights of your career?
I’ve played with some fantastic players like Kevin Iro who was at Saints when I broke into the first team. I’ve played in three World Club Championships, two Challenge Cup Finals, two Super League Grand Finals and I’ve not had a bad career, picking up five winners medals. The 2000 Grand Final, which was my first, was probably the highlight. I’d got in the team at the start of the season and never looked back.
How did the move to Widnes come about?
Saints offered me a new contract but I’m a Widnes lad and when they came in I went with them. I needed a fresh start and a new challenge but unfortunately I probably challenged myself a bit too much with my shoulder!
How will Widnes view this season just gone?
As a massive disappointment. With the players we signed at the start of the season, not many people thought we’d get relegated but, at the end of the day, if you have players pulling in different directions, you won’t get the end results that you want. Unfortunately for us, that’s what was happening.
What was the best win for the club?
Bradford in round two. We conceded 40 points the week before but it was one of those occassions when everyone clicked and played well. We beat them 31-22 with Owen Cragie getting two tries. At that stage, things looked good.
Who have been the best players of the season?
Terry O’Connor, Mark Smith and Mick Cassidy. They’ve been consistent and they weren’t just talking, they were delivering too. The end of season awards showed how well all three have played.
Is the club in good hands for the future with young players?
Yes. Both academy teams have done really well, reaching their respective Grand Finals so hopefully, there’ll be a lot of talent there when I’m coaching. I’m keen to put something back because I’ve loved my playing career. Now the club is the the National Leagues, we need to be producing youngsters for when we’re back in Super League, for them to become the backbone of the squad in the future.
Are you confident Widnes will bounce straight back to Super League?
Well, we’re keeping a 25-man full-time squad and Steve McCormack is a great appointment as coach. He did a great job at Whitehaven and totally transformed them up there. We now need to get things in motion for 2006.