Winner of the Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sentinel Sports Awards
Mick Wheat has been the heart and soul of Longton Rugby Club for nearly 60 years.
As an ex-pupil of Longton High School, Mick is an original Old Longtonian (the clubs former name) and began his service to the club as a player, straight from school in 1961. In the intervening 58 years Mick has held just about every position at the club and has been integral to the club securing its first permanent base in the mid 1970’s and its current, state of the art facilities at Trentham Lakes.
As a player, Mick was a 1st XV regular from his teen’s right through until his early 40’s and continued to represent the clubs lower and veteran sides in his late 50’s. He captained the club with distinction and was renowned for his fierce commitment, running ability and destructive tackling, once even being described in the programme for an England Schoolboys trial as ‘reputedly the hardest tackler in schoolboy rugby’.
Although having an impressive playing career, it is perhaps his off the field contribution to the club that makes Mick worthy of this award.
Over the past half century, Mick has held the role of club captain, club coach, club secretary, juniors/colts manager, publicity secretary, fixture secretary, sponsorship/fundraising lead, chairman (3 terms) and president. As far as we can ascertain, the only major role he hasn’t held is club treasurer!
It was Mick’s role as juniors/colts manager in the early 1980’s that saw an influx of young talent that would lay the foundations for the club to emerge from junior status to eventually flourish and become the top club in the county by the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Perhaps his most significant legacy is the establishment of the clubs first permanent home in the 1970’s and its later move to the current facilities at Trentham Lakes.
Prior to the mid 1970’s Old Longtonians was a club without a permanent home; changing in pubs and playing at a number of venues including the former Meir Aerodrome. Mick was instrumental in securing land at Roughcote Lane in Weston Coyney where an old farmer’s field was converted into a pitch, and the farm buildings into a club house and changing rooms.
By the late 1990’s as the club continued to grow, the facilities at Roughcote Lane were proving to be inadequate and the hunt for a new, bigger home commenced.
Alongside Martin Hamer, Mick was integral to the identification of land at Trentham Lakes, a stones throw from the Bet 365 Stadium. What followed was almost a decade of planning, fund raising, negotiating and hundreds of man hours that led to the opening of the fantastic facilities that the club has now. There were numerous setbacks and at times it seemed that the dream would die, but thanks to the hard work and perseverance of Mick and Martin, the project got over the line.
Happily retired, and enjoying time with his grand children and his other passion of golf, Mick is still involved in Longton RUFC, following the 1st XV around the Midlands, and writing the match reports for the clubs website and the local media.
His enormous contribution to Longton RUFC was also recognised by the RFU when he was awarded their ‘Valuing the Volunteer Award’ in 2009, a fitting acknowledgement of his service to the club and the sport of rugby union.