Day 3 of the Coventry’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) 2017 poll results and this time it’s 10th place that’s up for grabs.
And you voted for:
Heath had just nine starts this season before a freak training ground accident put pay to what was believed at the time to be pretty much the remainder of the season.
However, such are Heath’s powers of recovery and resilience, combined with the excellent rehab work provided by Max Hartman and his team, that it now appears that the 25 year old might be back before the end of February which would be a remarkable recovery given seriousness of the injury.
A few of us were at the Thursday night training session when Heath broke his leg and whilst no one saw what happened, the sickening feeling we all felt when it was clear just how serious it was will stay with me for a long time yet.
There was no contact with another player involved and it was just one of those inexplicable things that can happen to anyone. Fortunately, Hannah was immediately at his side and whilst the ambulance seemed to take a long time to get to the BPA, he was in good hands and apparently the gas and air kicked in very quickly. By all accounts, it was more a question of pulling him down from the ceiling by the time the medics arrived than it was of stabilising the injury, something that had been done very quickly by the Support Team.
RW came up into the stand once Heath had been taken into the medical room and confirmed that Heath was as happy as Larry under the anaesthesia.
It’s no surprise that Stevens is looking to make a quicker than expected recovery. He loves the game and loves being back at Coventry and is a player who trains exceptionally hard.
I appreciate it’s all ifs, buts and maybes, however I can’t help thinking that had Heath remained fit, he would have featured somewhat higher in the poll than 10th, good as that is.
His arrival at Coventry back in February certainly proved a contributory factor in Coventry’s upsurge in fortunes, adding more steel defensively and some much needed creativity in midfield, an area where we had struggled during the first half of last season. He also added a level of physicality into the Cov backs that had been hitherto missing, putting in some crunching tackles that often took the wind out of the opposition, making them think twice about running the same channels.
His partnership with Sam Tuitupou looked to have been developing nicely this season, so it will interesting to see how the Rowland Winter makes best use of the triumvirate of Stevens, Tuitupou and Matoto, given the way the Tongan has settled so quickly into the 13 shirt.
A combination of any of the three, with Alex Grove also soon to become available, gives Coventry a choice of pairings that certainly wouldn’t look out of place in the Championship.
Technically this is Heath Steven’s third spell at Coventry, having come here first as an 18 year old, spending two seasons with us before joining Bedford during the summer of 21012, only to return in the September – I have a vague recollection of the reason but am not confident enough to include that in the blog. He then stayed a further season, making 79 appearances in all for Cov, scoring 18 tries and was a very popular player with supporters even then.
Below are HS’ 2011/12 highlights – it’s well worth watching them just to remind yourself of the raw potential the 18/19 year old Stevens had back then. Even if you don’t watch the whole 3 minutes and 55 seconds worth, take a look at the first 30 seconds – a couple of the tackles he makes are huge!
Before returning to Cov, Heath spent his time at a number of clubs, including Worcester Warriors and his spells at Jersey and London Welsh were both ended because the respective clubs found themselves in varying degrees of financial difficulty. I remember RW saying how keen he was to bring Heath back to Cov when he first expressed an interest in re-joining, especially as Heath was really adamant he wanted to come back to the club that has always held such special memories for him.
Once again, Heath is another of the players that RW has worked with previously, this time when he was with East Midlands and Midlands U20s. In an interview with John Wilkinson, the Coventry Director of Rugby talked enthusiastically about Heath’s return:
I’m delighted to bring Heath back to Coventry…he will strengthen our squad, and he knows a number of the players well so should settle in quickly.
whilst in the same article, JW gave a bit more to Heath’s background:
As one door closed, however, another door opened, and when the chance of a move into coaching and teaching at St Paul’s School in London, while continuing to play at Coventry, arose it was too good to pass up for Stevens, who had a brief spell at Jersey Reds after leaving London Welsh.
Interestingly, Heath went on to say that:
I’d lost some of the enjoyment after London Welsh, I was pretty gutted about the whole situation – I was loving my time down there with some good coaches and playing pretty good rugby outside a player like Joe Carlisle who puts you on the front foot as a 10.
Those supporters who travelled down to Old Elthamians will have seen Joe Carlisle, ex-Cov of course whilst on loan from Worcester, in the home side playing in the same team alongside Dom Lespierre. Good player as he is, having seen him this season, I can’t help but feel Heath will benefit more from having the likes of Will Maisey and Tony Fenner at 10, rather than Joe C.
At 25 Heath is already just 2 games away from making 100 first team appearances. I’m guessing Cliffie Hodgson will have got to that milestone at a slightly younger age, but not by much…? Presuming his recovery remains on track, he certainly should be one of the youngest players to have made 1oo appearances for Cov, although I’m happy to be proved wrong on that front, and there’s every prospect of him going on to make a good few more.
He is a very experienced player now and it’s worth remembering that when club captain Phil Boulton was forced out of the team earlier in the season, it was to Heath Stevens’ that Rowland Winter turned, despite having the likes of Phil Nilsen (who had had a stint as captain of Yorkshire Carnegie) and Luke Narraway in the squad. He’s obviously another of the players that RW has brought in who commands respect from his teammates , tending to lead from the front.
Whilst he might not have been the obvious replacement, he certainly proved more than up to the job when he took over the captain’s armband.
Perhaps the most endearing quality that Heath possesses is his almost constant, and somewhat infectious, smile – it’s seldom that you see him without a broad grin on his face which is probably one of the reasons he is so popular.
I’m not sure about anyone else, but I’ve already started to tick off the players I hope Cov will retain next year should we be promoted. With a proven track record in the Championship, Heath is certainly one of the names I’ve pencilled in and without too much deliberation, although I do think we might need to strengthen the midfield somewhat even allowing for the strength we already have there.
And just for the record, Heath was one of the 4 players I voted for in the poll…
Day 4 tomorrow and we move into single figures with the 9th place to be announced…from hereon in, I’ll update the positions already confirmed at the end of each post, just to save having to go through each one individually should you want to check on other days:
Current standings – Coventry Rugby Club MVP poll 2017
Day 1 – Anthony Mototo (12th)
Day 2 – Phil Boulton (11th)
Day 3 – Heath Stevens (10th)