EXCLUSIVE: An interview with Keith Galloway

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When Leeds Rhinos’ forward Keith Galloway retired earlier this season due to injury, it would be understandable for him to have been distraught at that news. However, when Get ’em Onside had the opportunity to ask him a few questions, that wasn’t entirely the case. “I guess it wasn’t ideal but I’ve been fortunate enough to play the game for fifteen years,” he shared, noting that “there’s been a lot more players who have had to end their careers a lot earlier than mine. For that reason, I feel blessed in a way.”

It was, indeed, a career which started early for Galloway. Now 32, he made his first NRL appearance for Cronulla when he was just 17 – so young that he was still in high school. A dream for so many across the world, the five time Australian international was understandably proud to take to the field so young. He fast become known for his uncompromising style of play and being a very tough competitor and, when asked who the biggest influence on his career was and who fostered that within him, while praising his past coaches the man known as ‘Big Red’ gave a figure much closer to home. “From an early age, it has to be my father. He was the one who used to take me to games and he supported me always throughout my career.” 

As well as the aforementioned appearances for the Green and Golds, Galloway also appeared for the New South Wales State of Origin team in 2011. Throw in over two hundred NRL matches and just shy of fifty in Super League with the Rhinos, it’s fair to say that the Sydney born front rower has played at the very top level of rugby league. His career started with Cronulla before he made the vast majority of his career appearances with fellow Sydney club Wests Tigers before moving to the UK in 2016. Of his time in the sport, Galloway expressed his delight at having been fortunate enough to have great experiences at all three. “I’ve honestly enjoyed my time with all three clubs,” he shared, continuing that “I was pretty young at Cronulla Sharks and the thrill of playing alongside players I looked up to was awesome, players like Jason Stevens, David Peachey and Nigel Vagana.” It was almost a decade of his career that he spent with the Tigers once he had moved on and Galloway imparted that he loved his time there. “I made some great friends there. A decade is a large chunk of a life but it was really enjoyable. We were very competitive for a bit and I played some representative football – I really enjoyed it.”

2015 saw him feature in the most NRL games he ever did in one season but, in July of that year, he penned a deal to join the team that would go on to win each of the trophies on offer in the UK in the shape of Leeds. Understandably delighted to have recruited such an experienced player to his ranks, head coach Brian McDermott said at the time that “It is very pleasing to have reached agreement with Keith to bring him to the Rhinos. He is a highly experienced forward who will add to the group we already have in place for next season.” Signing a three year deal with the club, it was unfortunately cut short when Galloway announced his retirement from the elite level of the sport earlier this year. Injuries dogged him during his time with the West Yorkshire club and he suffered two season-ending Achilles injuries in both of his full seasons with the club. That, however, didn’t stop him enjoying his time with the Rhinos nor did it stop him developing a huge respect for his head coach. “I really enjoyed playing under ‘Mac’. He’s a man’s man and gets the best out of his players,” he revealed “He has a great way of motivating his players and everyone listens to and really respects him. I guess that, being an ex-front rower, he gets even more respect from me.”

Despite missing large parts of his time with Leeds through injury, he still made over forty appearances in the blue and amber and, while he didn’t get to play in the final, he was still part of a Grand Final winning team. Of seeing his team mates lift the trophy while he was out injured, he admitted that it was a rather bittersweet feeling for him. “I worked hard to get right and back playing after doing my achilles the year before. I was feeling good until the other one went!” He did add that “although I would have obviously loved to have been out there playing at Old Trafford, it was still a great experience to be amongst all the boys and seeing them win the big one!”

Having played his fair share of rugby in both premier competitions in the world, Get ’em Onside asked Galloway what he views as being the big differences between the two; “the weather!” he joked, before elaborating his belief that both competitions are strong. “I think both competitions are very tough and, after playing in Super League, it surprised me how competitive it actually was. I think that, looking from afar at the competition, you have the idea that there are only a few clubs that can realistically win it – but that is definitely changing.”

Now back in Sydney after his retirement, Galloway has taken up a new career – albeit one where his renowned strength and build will aid him. “I’m back living in Sydney and working in the construction industry. It’s all very new to me and a learning experience so I’m just giving it a crack and seeing how I go!” 

While it’s fair to say that Super League – and Leeds fans in particular – didn’t get to see the best of Galloway during his time in the competition due to injury, nobody watching him play would ever have been able to doubt that he was giving his all and doing the dirty work that must be done if a team is to be successful. For that, Rhinos fans should remember his work on the field as fondly as he remembers their support off it.

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