“You have to know you might never play on that pitch again,” explains Movado Hall, with a clarity which belies his age. “To captain on that pitch is a lifetime memory.”
Walking out at the home of Welsh rugby is a privilege few of us will ever experience. Even fewer will be the one leading their side out.
It is an honor which won’t be lost on anyone who has ever stepped out onto the Principality Stadium turf, a culmination of hard work, fortune and sheer will to reach that special moment.
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For 14-year-old tight-head prop Movado, all the words above certainly ring true. On Wednesday, he will live out that “lifetime memory” by leading out Cardiff Schools A team in the Lawrence Miller Bowl final against Islwyn.
It is a remarkable achievement for a young lad who, had things gone a little differently, might have ended up down a path less desirable. Just two years ago, when lockdown hit the country, Movado-as his mother Marissa Spettie explains-“went off the rails a bit and put two fingers up to everyone.”
“He’d be out on the street, hanging out with the older boys and getting into lots of trouble and fights,” she added. “He does n’t always know how to control his emotions from him. It was police all the time, getting into fights, not listening to anyone and hanging around with the wrong people.”
Movado takes up the story: “At that point, you know it’s never good. But in the moment, you feel you’re big and tough. You’re this and that. Then you realize you’re small.
“I’d prefer to be out there playing rugby with 30 of my best mates, who I know will always be there for me. You’ll never beat them. Every one of them is my brother and I’ll do anything for them .”
Covid was the touchpaper which ripped Movado away from rugby, something he had fallen in love with since his first session with St Albans as a seven-year-old boy, and towards the streets. But the lack of day-to-day structure in his school life from him played just as much a part.
“I can say the school system did fail him,” explains Marrissa. “Sometimes, it’s easier to brush it under the carpet and it’s easier for them to just leave him. They do try and he’d rebel in certain ways. But it’s a misunderstanding and sometimes he’d get the blame. Because of his anger and emotions, people put it on his size. We moved home locations so he went between primary schools, then straight to Greenhill.”
Movado had hoped to go to Eastern High in Cardiff, but for whatever reason, Marrissa said he was told he couldn’t go despite being accepted. As such, he ended up in Greenhill – a Cardiff-based school which caters for pupils with social, emotional and mental health difficulties.
From the age of 11, Movado has been in alternative education with a reduced time table. He would be the first to admit it’s not been an environment conducive to him achieving what he would like.
“They don’t always care,” he says. “They give me a timetable and then they don’t stick to it.
“I’d be getting frustrated in class and then getting in stupid little fights. Maybe anyone would feel like this, but I always felt they were straight to exclusion and getting me out.
“I would ask to go out for five minutes to calm down and keep my head, but sometimes they wouldn’t let me do that. Some teachers would.”
Thankfully, there has been an endless list of people there to help Movado turn things around. The first two he mentions are his social worker, Anneka Bartlett, and Dionne Rowe, who works for Action for Children. Between them, they have provided Movado with daytime opportunities amid a poor education record.
“With the help of Anneka and Dionne, it made me think what I wanted to do in the long run,” he added. “It’s not being out there on the street doing bad stuff, it’s being with the boys on the pitch after a game. You can’t beat it.
“Anneka has helped me loads. She’s stuck by me with every little thing. Dionne has been a big help. Being able to open up in one-on-one sessions is a big thing. If there’s any way to put it, asking for help made things easier and put me in this position.Just asking for help will go a long way.
“I specifically went to my mum. She’s always been my number one. [She’s a] single parent so it’s been hard, but she’s been there for me. My mum went to speak to the school, then the social workers stepped in and did loads.”
Luke Gibson from St Albans also did his best to look after him through Covid and managed to get him back to the club when team rugby started, while Greenhill’s Steve Facey has managed to get Movado opportunities with Llanishen High School to play more rugby.
“It was only when Anneka and Dionne were opening my eyes to things, that I realized [the situation at his school] wasn’t good enough,” explains Marissa. “Steve Facey has been brilliant at Greenhill in getting him into Llanishen to play rugby. He didn’t turn his back on him, even when he’s had little episodes.”
Part of the help he has received has seen him head to the Hangar gym to do some mixed martial arts work and “let out some anger.” He’s now doing some peak fitness work at former Wales international Robin Sowden-Taylor’s gym in Cardiff, which you can read more about here.
All of that has been geared towards getting into the Cardiff Schools team. Movado has tried out before but this time there was to be no denying him. More than anything, that motivating rugby factor was what dragged him away from the path he was heading down.
“I couldn’t put it into words, the difference rugby has made on him,” admits his mum. “It’s a total 180. We’ve all pushed him, but he’s done it on his own. In the end, he just woke up, I think. I was glad he got back into rugby, not because of the effect it has on him, but because it’s something he’s good at.
Movado adds: “Coming up to the end few months of lockdown, I started realizing and preparing for the trials. I stopped going out on the streets. Looking back, I think what was I doing?”
All of this only makes the fact he’ll be leading his team out in Cardiff all the more remarkable. Kids from some of the biggest schools across Cardiff will be captained by Movado. “He’s possibly the second kid from Greenhill to play for Cardiff Schools in 120 years,” said Liam Mackay, one of Cardiff’s coaches. “He’s almost certainly the first to captain them.
“That just shows the opportunities afforded to them. He’s a switched-on kid, who’s been out of full-time education and not been catered for. Yet he’s leading a team of kids from places like Glantaf, Whitchurch and Llanishen. There’s clearly something about him.”
Movado himself admits not being able to remove the captaincy process when it was handed to him. “You can’t beat it. The love everyone has for it, you can’t beat playing for that badge.
“It’s a massive achievement to be running out on that pitch. I didn’t expect the captaincy. I was a bit starstruck when I was offered. To say I’m captain, it’s unbelievable.
“Captaining boys from all over Cardiff, those schools are up there and you’d think they would be picked. There’s something to it which the boys and the coaches see. Look where we are now. It’s such a big thing.”
For Movado and his mother, it promises to be a special day. Pride seems too small a word to describe what this will mean.
A handful of photos and the promise of framing his jersey will ensure the memories live on beyond this week. But it’s what rugby might yet give him which will leave him in better stead.
“I just want him to keep on doing what he’s doing,” says his mother. “I always knew he could do it.”
“I hope rugby takes me all the way,” adds Movado. “I know what it is, though. Only the select few make it to the top. You just try your hardest to make it and you see where it takes you. Where it’s taken my so far, I’m happy with that.”