Written by Callum Walker
Growing up in Basingstoke, Mike McMeeken’s rugby league career never looked like being a possibility after being exposed to the 15-a-side code from a very early age.
“I played union from the age of four up until the age of 15,” McMeeken told Everything Rugby League.
“My family are originally from the north west so league wasn’t alien to us.
“I was about ten when I first played league, my brother was in the London Broncos reserve team – they were training down at Brunel University and he saw there was an amateur team training there as well on a Wednesday evening.
“So, I went along the following week and it was West London Sharks under-13s that were training there.
“I loved it and it worked out well as I could play union in the winter and league in the summer.
“It’s great to see how far league in the south has come on since I first started, back then I believe there was only about six teams in the whole of London.”
Moving to the north at just 20 years of age would be daunting for any person, but a transfer to the Castleford Tigers put the powerful second-rower on a collision course to success.
“It was a decision that put me out of my comfort zone, but there were three other players from London that were moving to Castleford that season too (Matt Cook, Denny Solomona and Scott Moore), so that made the move a bit easier.
“Me, Denny and Scott rented a place together for the first year so that was pretty good.
“I was excited for the move; Cas had just got to the Challenge Cup final in 2014 and had finished in the top four.
“So, I knew I was joining a class team, coached by a great coach.”
McMeeken played almost 150 games for the Tigers over a period of six seasons and he says he will always have fond memories of the Jungle.
“I loved every moment of my time at Cas; I loved the team, the people and the town.
“Obviously, 2017 was a great year for the team and myself personally, but I also think all the other years were great too.
“Yes, we didn’t get the results we wanted or finished where we wanted, but it helped me learn and develop as a player.”
At the end of 2020, it was confirmed that McMeeken would be heading to the south of France to join Catalans. With a young family, some would say it was a difficult decision, but for the Londoner, it didn’t take long to reach a conclusion.
“When I spoke with Steve (McNamara), he wanted to speak with my partner too.
“He was telling us about the club’s ambition to win more silverware and about the lifestyle and culture in France which were both exciting.
“We are obviously missing friends and family back in England, but myself and my family are loving life where we live now.
“When COVID restrictions allow, they’ll be able to come and visit which will be superb.”
McMeeken’s focus for 2021 involves hunting for trophies, but to also nail down a starting spot in the first-team.
“For me personally, I want to continue to improve as a player and help the team to win games.
“That means getting a starting position and being consistent, week in and week out to try and get us to the point of winning silverware.”