Published: 00:00, 17 May 2019
Matt Corker can’t wait to see Canterbury Rugby Club take on the National League 1 big guns next season, but he admits he might have to watch their potential develop from the sidelines rather than on the pitch.
The 36-year-old former Wasps, London Welsh and Richmond forward has been an integral part of the team for the past two seasons, helping the club to reach rugby’s third tier for the first time in their history after a 19-10 home play-off win over Chester on May 4.
Canterbury chairman Giles Hilton described him as an inspiration while the skipper Sean Stapleton remains in awe of his athleticism, but player-coach Corker himself thinks time might finally be catching up with him – or at least his body.
Lock Corker explained: “I think I’m probably looking at a semi-retirement role (next season).
“I’ll definitely be available in a back-up capacity, but I’m really looking forward to maybe pushing on with my coaching as well.
“I’ve played the last 61 games in a row which is why I think my body hurts so much.
“I’m 37 in November and I think if I want to be able to walk in the next five years then it’s probably time for me to be a bit more careful.
“I had conversations with Andy (head of rugby Andy Pratt) when I signed about having a rest every couple of weeks, but I just like playing.
“It was fantastic that the club came in when they did. They helped me out with some coaching and they’ve also given me a place to sort of see out the final days of my rugby career and I’m so grateful for that opportunity.
“The best thing about coming to Canterbury is that they really helped me fall back in love with the sport.
“You’re only as good as your last game and for the play-off win to be my last game as maybe a front-line player is fantastic.
“I’m chuffed to bits, I’m really proud for myself but also this group for what they’ve achieved together – it is phenomenal.”
Corker, who hails from Thanet, says that he has no doubts that Canterbury will be competitive in rugby’s third tier because the team spirit within the squad is unrivalled.
The 6ft 7in forward added: “I can’t wait to see all of these guys playing National League 1 rugby because I think it’s well deserved, they’ve worked really hard.
“Apart from me it’s a young squad and that’s what really excites me.
“These guys have got a really bright future and the fantastic thing for us as a club is that they don’t have to go somewhere else to get it.
“We can offer them that here. I’m not underestimating the challenge, it’s a very competitive league and there are teams who are very well resourced.
“We’ve just got to maintain the progress we’ve made this year. If we stagnate it’s going to be tricky but that’s not what this group is about, it’s about pushing themselves week in, week out
“We’re really fortunate we’ve got so many great athletes, we need to make sure next year we develop our game as a team.
“It’s a massive opportunity for these players to test themselves at a higher level – we’ll be playing in the third tier of English rugby.
“The reason we’re punching above our weight is just because of the spirit within the group, and people just buying in because when you believe in a cause and you want to do things for your friends you can achieve a lot more.”
More by this authorMark Stokes