Almost a month after taking up his new role of Regional Performance Development Manager, Andrew Millward says that he is enjoying the challenge of helping to shape the future of the Ospreys.
Veteran prop Millward, who turned 37 earlier this week, has taken up the key post at the region after a long and distinguished playing career that has seen him make 94 appearances in an Ospreys shirt. Named in the starting line-up for the region's first ever Celtic League fixture against Ulster in September 2003, Millward won two league titles with the Ospreys as well as featuring in the historic 24-16 victory over Australia in November 2006.
Now though, he is swapping the rugby pitch for the office, and the nine-to-five has taken the place of a training schedule as he gets to grips with his new role. He said:
"I'm really enjoying myself, the first month has really flown by but I'm getting used to spending my days in the office and taking in matches in the evenings instead of just concentrating on training and building up to matchday. It's certainly a bit strange for me to spending so much time behind a desk, but I'm old enough to remember having to combine playing rugby with working outside the game so it's not a completely new experience.
There's not really been a chance to ease myself into the swing of things as there's a lot of work to be done straight away, restructuring the whole organisation of the age grade set up in time for the start of the new year in January, as well as attending plenty of meetings to get to know everybody. The immediate task for me is to get the structures right for the under-16 and under-18's, and then I'll be looking more closely at the Academy set-up and ways that we can improve how it operates.
It's going to be a steep learning curve for me but I'm really excited about the challenge. It's an important role within the Ospreys set-up and is one where I really believe that I can have an impact. The Ospreys already have a great track record of developing young talent and I'm looking forward to continuing this good work in this new role."
Millward's key duties will be to identify and manage the development of elite young players within the Ospreys region, leading the WRU's overall Performance Programme to ensure an effective flow of young talent into the regional set-up, and potentially into the international structure. In his new role, he will work closely with regional age-group and senior team coaches as well as coaches at the clubs across the region and WRU development staff to ensure the on and off-the-field development of young players.
Prior to taking up the post, he spent three seasons combining his playing career with the role of Forwards Coach with the Ospreys Academy, and he sees his new post as being a natural progression. He explained:
I've always had a keen interest in assisting with the development of young talent, going back to my younger days when I qualified as a PE teacher and combined playing for London Welsh with working in education. More recently I was involved with the Ospreys Academy, helping to coach the age group teams and I've always worked closely with young props coming through the ranks, helping to pass on my experience. This new role will allow me to take it a step further and to play a more formal part in the development of the next generation of young talent.
Of course I'm disappointed to be hanging my boots up, I think every rugby player dreads the day when they have to bring their career to an end, but to be honest about it, I've just turned 37 and I've had a good career so I can't be too disappointed. I've been very lucky with injuries and never really suffered. Most of my friends that I started playing rugby with have all retired before me so I can consider myself fortunate to be in the position that I'm in. I'll miss the day-to-day involvement as a player, but this opportunity is one that I couldn't refuse. It's a fresh challenge that should prove to be just as fulfilling as my playing career."
Speaking at the time of Millwards's appointment at the start of November, Ospreys Elite Performance Director, Andrew Hore, commented:
"As a senior member of the playing squad over the last five years, 'Bully' has always impressed with his willingness and desire to pass on his extensive knowledge of the game to his team mates. He has always had a hugely positive influence on the Ospreys environment and will continue to do so as Regional Performance Development Manager.
He is a local boy who has been with us since the inception of the region in 2003 and is very much one of the unsung Ospreys heroes, a great role model for youngsters looking to make their way in the game. He has already shown during his time as an Age Grade Coach that he cares passionately about developing young talent and this new role will now allow him to devote himself full-time to ensuring that the Ospreys conveyor belt continues to turn out high quality regional and international players.
If we are going to deliver long term, sustainable success for the region, we have to make sure that there is a clear pathway for young developing talent, we have to provide local youngsters with the tools to allow them to make their way in the game. In the short time that the Ospreys have been in existence we have a proud record of producing home grown talent that is second to none, and we have a current crop of Academy graduates who look like following in the footsteps of predecessors like James Hook, Alun-wyn Jones and Ian Evans. I'm sure that Andrew Millward, in his role as Regional Performance Development Manager, is looking forward to the challenge of building on the good work already done, to take the Ospreys Academy onto another level again."