Life back on the farm keeps Ulster's Will Addison busy during lockdown
The Ulster star returned to his family farm in Cumbria pre-lockdown and with early morning starts of 5.30am to milk cows, feed calves and toss a few hay bales around ensuring he had no problems filling in his days.
Spending time with family certainly helped as well during a difficult time as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and equally important Addison was able to focus on rehabbing a calf and back injury he had picked up during the season before lockdown and being ready to hit the ground running when the sport eventually gets the nod to return once again.
The 27-year-old utility back, who features mostly at fullback and outside centre, also agreed a two-year extension to his current Ulster contract as he looks at making further progress with the Province and his international career.
Hiding out on the farm in Cumbria during lockdown was "brilliant" Addison admitted. "
“Chatting to a load of the guys over WhatsApp I think I was the envy of the rest of the team as well as the other farmers in the squad.
“There was plenty of work and tasks to be getting on with. I did a fair amount with the calves. It was really good to have something outside of rugby to challenge me and potentially something I might look at doing outside of rugby as well.
“I wasn't a big gym goer as a kid trying to get games for the rugby team, all my fitness came off the farm, chucking bales of hay around. It's a pretty easy way to stay fit at the minute.”
From his rugby career the enforced break gave him the opportunity to focus on some injury issues he has had.
“I'm one of the lucky ones,” he admitted. “Like most players the pandemic gave me a chance to rehab the body and refresh.
“It's really beneficial for me in that way. It's been one of the most frustrating seasons personally, just a lot of highs and lows and I've had to learn about myself.
“I've gone through a lot of injuries in my career and probably dealt with them quite well but with a World Cup squad after the back injury, then not making the plane, then thinking there was a chance to make it, it's been really up and down.
“A couple of knocks through the season, but still making the Heineken Cup quarter final, more highs and lows. Then the Six Nations and really feeling like I could stake a claim before the body let me down again.
“I think it's testament to the environment that Faz (Andy Farrell) has been able to create already that even with me feeling miserable with my calf I really enjoyed the time I had in camp and that was in a rehab line.
“I'm really looking forward to being in that environment fully fit and raring to go.”
Proposals are in place for a return to playing towards the end of August for rugby and Addison is relishing the prospect and hoping Ulster can build on where they were pre-lockdown, challenging for silverware in both the Guinness PRO14 and Europe’s Heineken Champions Cup.
“When we get back the challenge for us and other teams is hopefully to start right back where we left off.
“We were in a brilliant part of the season where we were challenging for Heineken Cup honours as well as PRO14, if we can challenge ourselves as a player group to really hit the ground running that would be a feather in our cap.
“I think that would be our challenge at the moment. Bring our learning on our own to make sure we are really ready as individuals and then come together and go after something great.”
As for agreeing a further two years to his contract at Ulster, Addison admitted it was an easy decision.
“It was a pretty straightforward thought process in the end.
“Myself and Jordi (Murphy) were announced on the same day and I think we were pretty much of the same mind, that it was a pretty easy decision given how things have gone over the last two years and the success will hopefully have over the next two years.
“It's an exciting young squad and it's an exciting young coaching group that we're working with. I think it's a really enjoyable place to be. Those were the factors.
“You want to be competing for trophies and I think that's what we're going to be doing. In the end, it was an easy decision and I'm delighted.”
The coaching set-up at Ulster was another reason for Addison’s decision.
“I played with Peely (Dwayne Peel) and I'm always picking his brain,” explained Addison.
“When I signed for Ulster I knew he was an attack minded coach and you're always learning on the job from him.
“With Dan (McFarland) the main thing is the speed of play that he's after. He's obviously got a pretty good eye for detail and his knowledge of the ruck, that's one thing I've learnt from him, just how important the ruck is in the game.
“And it's how important he is as a man manager. He's a real student of the likes of basketball and the NFL, and he's a real one to encourage us to look outside of rugby and see what we can learn from other sports.
“The most popular one at the minute is The Last Dance, and trying to cultivate a winning mindset and a get-better-every-day mindset. That growth mindset is something that Dan has really identified and I can see that myself.
“Rugby skill and rugby detail, especially from the likes of Jared Payne, but it's especially cultivating a mindset, that's something I've really learnt from Dan and hopefully will keep doing so in the next few years,” Addison added.
Spending time at the home farm in Cumbria has probably given Addison an insight to what he might do when he has to eventually retire from the sport and he has options as his mother’s side of the family have farming interests on Irish shores in Monaghan and Fermanagh.
“I have not been down to the farm here yet, but hopefully now I am back in Belfast and as things ease a bit more I will,” said Addison who has now returned to Belfast from Cumbria.
“My mum and dad both come from a farming background so all of mum's siblings are involved in farms in whatever way. Some of them are in Monaghan and have a poultry farm. Two of my uncles are involved in beef and dairy in Fermanagh as well.
"Hopefully I'll go and visit them soon now that I'm back in Belfast but the farm I've been on the last nine weeks is my dad's family organic dairy herd. I've been back farming over there in Cumbria. Just as lockdown was starting, Dan advised anyone who wanted to go home to go home. I went back because I knew my dad might need an extra pair of hands on the farm, so we were back in Cumbria for nine weeks.
"Yeah, exactly. It was a really great time to be back with my family, my sister was back from London so it was lovely to spend some quality time with her. Then for my partner to spend some quality time with my family as well was great.
"It's probably one of those testing times when you're spending a lot of time with your other half's family but she did really well and enjoyed it, so that was great.
"To spend a lot of time on the farm was great because it's something that potentially I'll go back to once I retire. It was really great to get that insight and work closely with my dad,” added Addison.