Joe Heyes has come a long way since he walked into the Nottingham Forest Academy and told them that he wanted to play rugby, not football, at the age of 14.
A promising goalkeeper - it’s no surprise looking at him now that Joe’s size could be an advantage in a number of sports. But it was not the City Ground, but Welford Road that the tighthead prop would realise his dream.
Joe will be heading back to Nottingham Moderns’ Wiilford ground as part of a Tigers Takeover session on Wednesday, February 26 (5.00pm – 9.00pm) to get involved with a programme to help encourage new players into the club.
Nottingham-born Joe will be joined by two more Tigers team mates as they help out with sessions for under-7s right up to under-16s, as well as a Q&A with the club.
Of his unconventional start in rugby, the twenty year old explains, “I remember we went to the pub after I’d told Forest and was like ‘Mum, I want to play rugby’ and literally across the road was Nottingham Moderns ground. It was definitely a sign.
“I’d been at Forest for three or four years, but I had never really played rugby before. I’d watched the Six Nations and got involved in school, and I knew some players from Newark RFC and Nottingham Corsairs – so I joined moderns just to have some fun.”
From that point on, Heyes fell in love with the game and is hoping his rise will hopefully inspire more Nottinghamshire youngsters to try rugby, in a region that boasts a plethora of sporting success.
“I got straight into rugby at 14. It was full contact, and the coaches would get involved. I was twice the size of people then, but as my mum said you’re not the biggest for long.
“I was actually an outside centre, I was about 100kg and used my size. I then went to number eight, and it wasn’t until if first played for Tigers that they put me at prop. But I enjoyed playing everywhere.
“Rugby is not as big in Nottingham, you have Notts Rugby who I used to watch at Notts County’s ground when I was younger, alongside Corsairs and Trent, but the city is brimming with sporting talent from football, to cricket to ice hockey.”
Joe owes his success in part to two of his old coaches, Ian Heborn and John Cole, who introduced him to game.
“In a nutshell, they put me on the ladder. I just wanted to play for enjoyment, I had no idea about the professional game or academies. But they gave me the belief and in the end, put me forward to Tigers.
“They saw my potential, and just made me love and enjoy what I did. I had a lot of fun during my time with moderns and I was always excited to go training and turn up on matchdays.”
Leicester Tigers Nottingham Moderns Takeover Day is a part of the club’s Project Rugby activity in partnership with Premiership Rugby, which aims to provide opportunities for those who may not have exposure to rugby, as well as eliminate some of the barriers to participation.
Live in the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire region and interested in getting involved? You can sign up and register your interest by clicking below or contact [email protected] for more info.