Written by Callum Walker
Mickey Higham began his career at hometown club Leigh Centurions in 1999, debuting as an 18-year old. The dynamic hooker made 45 appearances, scoring 22 tries before a massive move to St Helens came about at the end of 2000 after a move to Halifax Blue Sox had looked likely.
Higham took to Super League like a duck to water and played in Saints’ superb Challenge Cup and Grand Final wins of 2002, operating as substitute hooker to Keiron Cunningham. Over the course of five seasons, he scored 35 tries in 116 games. His penultimate and last season at Saints was marred by injury and so Saints parted ways with Higham at the end of 2005.
He was then involved in a bizarre three-club deal that saw Terry Newton go to Bradford, but it was a development which the hooker was not exactly a fan of, brought about by Saints’ refusal to sell players directly to Ian Millward, who they sacked as coach in May 2005.
Higham did become first-choice hooker with the Warriors, playing 97 times in three seasons, scoring 17 tries before he was once more on the move at the end of 2008.
At the age of 28, Higham arguably played the best rugby of his career at Warrington Wolves – his next destination. He was at the Wolves for seven seasons, scoring 37 tries and kicking one goal in 174 appearances.
The no.9 was vital to Warrington’s Challenge Cup winning exploits in 2009 – which was held on the same day as his wife’s due date for their second child – 2010 and 2012, though he was on the losing side in the 2012 and 2013 Grand Finals.
Higham departed Warrington midway through May 2015 to sign for hometown and Championship club Leigh for £50,000. At the age of 34, it would be his last hurrah as a Rugby League player.
Although failing to inspire promotion for Leigh in 2015, he was instrumental in the Centurions’ promotion in 2016, captaining the side to Super 8s glory.
The 2017 and 2018 seasons were, however, years to forget for Higham and the Centurions. Leigh’s maiden season in Super League ended with relegation in 2017 and, despite coming out of retirement in early 2018 to stem the Centurions’ early season slump in the Championship, he could not help the club reach the top four.
After returning, the now 39-year-old scored six tries in 90 appearances. Finally, he decided to retire for good at the end of the 2019 season. Upon retiring, Higham accepted a role as part of Leigh’s coaching team, a position which owner Derek Beaumont outlined the former hooker was perfect for.
Higham’s club form for St Helens and then Wigan and Warrington meant he was given both Great Britain and England call-ups, though he played just four games for each and scored a solitary try for England.
A physical, aggressive hooker with a superb off-the-floor passing game and tremendous leadership, Higham was a highly respected figure on and off the field. Always one to be leading the defensive line, he defied his 5 ft 8 stature with huge hits in defence and a strong and elusive running game.