Posted: Saturday 18th March 2023

Mellor on life at Wheldon Road and 2023 ambitions

Alex Mellor talks about his start in the sport, his journey so far, and how he's finding life at the Tigers!

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Alex Mellor made the switch to the Tigers in June last year and it’s fair to say the 28-year-old has adapted to his new club seamlessly, as he’s been a mainstay in the Fords pack from day one.

The second row started all eleven contests he was involved in last term, scoring once, and made his presence known from the get-go by forming a formidable partnership in the back row with Kenny Edwards.

Mellor’s efforts were rewarded prior to the 2023 Super League campaign getting underway as he had the honour of being named Vice-Captain, and when he sat down to chat with, Cas #12 began by reflecting on where it all started in his hometown of Halifax.

“When I went to high school one of my friends, who played at a local amateur club Kings Cross, said why don’t you come down and I thought why not. When I started, I could see the friendships that you built.

“At that age, you are really competitive but you all have a laugh and I loved that. I stuck with it and played at Kings Cross from under 12s until under 16s before leaving the amateur scene from there.

“My core group of best mates are from that team, so we are all really close. That’s the bond that rugby gives you because we all stuck together and I’m sure a lot of other people who have played the game have as well.”

Family plays a massive part in the majority of players’ careers, with Alex explaining this was no different for him with his father playing a big role. Despite not being big a rugby fan, Mellor explained that his dad always made time to take him to matches and went on further to point out that his sporting career could have gone down a different route.

“My dad took me to wherever I wanted to go because I played cricket when I was younger as well as football and rugby. He’d take me to a football game on a Sunday morning and then straight to a game of rugby, so he was a big advocate of allowing me to do what I wanted to do so I applaud him for that. He was a football man my dad and my mum played a bit of hockey so it was a sporty family, but rugby was new to them.

“I think at first they enjoyed watching me and not watching rugby but they started to develop a bit of love for the game when I started playing to a better level. I had to make a choice when I was 16 because I played for Yorkshire cricket when I was younger, but I had to make a choice of which path I wanted to go down and I chose to get my body absolutely smashed in on a weekly basis! 

“It’s a choice that I am so grateful that I made because it has given me so much.”   

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Mellor then made the transition away from community rugby in his late teens and was picked up by Bradford Bulls at academy level. Looking back on the years he spent at Odsal, the Cas man affirmed that despite it being a difficult time behind the scenes, he will always be grateful for the opportunity he was given to make his senior bow.

“It was scary going into that environment as a young lad. There are lads older than you, but you start making friendships pretty quickly. When you make that step up from academy to first team there were a lot of old-school blokes and you only spoke when you were spoken to.

“It was a daunting place to play as an 18-year-old, but it definitely shaped my future. My debut for Bradford was against Warrington at home because I was supposed to be 18th man and Galey had to pull out. I was still on an academy contract at the time, and I was going to make my Super League debut against a fantastic Warrington side. It was Trent Waterhouse and Ryan Atkins who I was up against when I went on which was a mad experience going from playing in the academy to that in the space of less than a month.

“It was obviously a tough time for the club back then but dropping down to the Championship actually helped me because I played regularly and learnt my trade, playing about 50 games over two seasons.”         

After three years in the Bulls’ first team, Alex moved to Huddersfield Giants before ending up at Leeds Rhinos, a team who he supported growing up. During his time at Headingley, the 28-year-old lifted the first piece of silverware in his career by winning the Challenge Cup in 2020.

It was a contest played behind closed doors due to Covid restrictions, however, Mellor described it as an unforgettable moment and one he is incredibly driven to reach with the Fords in the future.

“I supported Leeds as a kid, so it was a big move and to win the Challenge Cup was massive. It was a weird time because we were all masked up and I think there were only 90 fans there because of the corporate stuff so it was really strange. It was like doing a captain’s run at Wembley Stadium but it was the actual game.

“It was one of the best feelings in my entire life and it was an emotional time but unfortunately none of my family were there. We were straight on the bus after and back up we went but in terms of winning it, it was something that I’d always wanted to do when I was younger so to achieve that was fantastic. 

“Winning it was 95% of it but that 5% of not having my family there has made me want to win more because now I have experienced it once I want to achieve that again.”

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Moving clubs isn’t a regular occurrence in rugby league, however, Mellor made the move to The Jungle after two and half years with the Rhinos and he explained how the move midway through the 2022 season came about.   

“I got injured at the end of 2021 and sort of fell out of favour a little bit at Leeds and it was the year I was out of contract, so it became a little bit stressful for me. Every game you play when you are in your final year the pressure is magnified.

“It was the change I needed at that time in my career so I signed initially for 2023 but my agent asked if would I be interested in going now.

“I wasn’t playing as much at Leeds and they had just changed coach with Rohan coming in and it was probably bad timing because he landed and two days later I was talking to him about my future. I took the decision on myself to go to Cas and I haven’t looked back.”

Alex has become part of the furniture at his new club, having a big influence on and off the pitch in a short space of time. Mellor puts the smooth transition down to the positive working environment within the Cas camp.

“I have absolutely loved it because it’s a place you love coming to work every day. The club itself is such a family club. When you need to be switched on, everyone is switched on but once you step back over the whitewash into the changing rooms everyone relaxes and everyone’s friends.

“The environment here suits me because it’s focused when it needs to be and it’s jovial when it needs to be. We set high standards for ourselves, so I have found it really easy to fit in here.”

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Mellor’s vice-captaincy was announced ahead of the season, and Alex put forward his pride of stepping up to the leadership role by saying: “I am absolutely chuffed to bits with it and it’s something that I’m really honoured to get. To come and get it after being here for six months, it’s a bit of a dream for me. It’s something that I am really going to take on and learn from those around me. I don’t think I’m the complete leader yet so it’s going to be something where I keep adding strings to my bow.

“I have already learned a lot from Macca since I have been here, but I will keep watching him and keep learning. I think a good leader isn’t one that’s the most vocal but speaks when they need to and leads with actions.”

Ahead of the season getting underway Alex received the heart breaking news that his close friend Zak had passed away and Mellor paid tribute to him as well as adding how it will provide added motivation for him this year.

“It’s been a bit of a tough time over the past few weeks losing my good friend Zak. He was a massive pillar in rugby league and was a great player when he was younger. He had the toughest life I’d ever known but he just got on with it. 

“He actually broke his hand the same way I broke mine in 2018 but the operation went wrong, and he was in a pot for five years. He had so much adversity to deal with so I admire him, and I will be using his memory as motivation. I will be having his name on my wrist all season so that will give me added inspiration.”