Whirlwind year for Batley Bulldogs prop Michael Ward sees his Wembley dream come true
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The back end of 2022 saw a Grand Final appearance against Leigh in October, in which the Bulldogs were a mere 80 minutes away from a place in Super League, as well as a call-up to the Ireland squad at the World Cup a few weeks later.
The decision to chase his dream meant he had to give up the day job as a maths teacher.
Fast forward a few months into 2023 and Ward has assisted Batley to yet another promising position in the Championship table, with another play-off push on the cards, as well as helping the Bulldogs to this historic occasion at Wembley in the 1895 Cup final against Halifax Panthers.
After returning to the classroom, at the same school he left, at Christmas on a short-term contract, he has now landed a new role as the head of maths at a different school - Whitcliffe Mount in Cleckheaton - in September.
“It has been a bit of a whirlwind,” Ward admitted.
“We had the Grand Final, then I went to the World Cup and now we’re going to Wembley. Hopefully I’ll play.
“It’s the kind of thing you work for all your career. Growing up as a kid you dream of going to a World Cup or playing at Wembley.
"That is the beauty of this competition. Lads like myself who haven’t been full-time having the opportunity to potentially play at Wembley.
“It will be amazing. I’ve got to be selected first to be fair, but it’s a dream.
"I have always watched the finals and been down to Wembley several times. It will be something special walking out in front of all those people.
"I’ve got my mum and dad coming down, and my sister is coming down from Carlisle, as well as my partner and little girl, and my uncle from Southampton.”
He added: “It’s special for the fans, it’s special for the club and it’s special for each and everyone of the lads.
“We set out at the start of the season to get to the final. We thought it was an obtainable goal to get to Wembley.
"We’ve just got to do the next step now and improve from the weekend (defeat against Bradford Bulls), and go out there and win it.”