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This unprecedented period, which has seen the world remove itself from regular routine, has affected the daily lives of us all. Those whose professions depend on outdoor and public activity may find the Government’s necessary directive to ‘stay at home’, particularly daunting. Morson has an illustrious history of sporting partnerships, from supporting boxing legends Ricky Hatton, Anthony Crolla and Callum Smith to sponsoring Manchester’s rugby pride, Sale Sharks and Salford Red Devils; but we, and our sport stars, have never encountered what faces us now, a world, temporarily, without sport. Indeed, athletes across a variety of fields face a lengthy time away from competitive action and will instead, like the rest of us, make use of their surroundings at home, in order to stay focused and fit. Maintaining physical activity, when many of us are confined to our home environment, is essential for staying mentally alert, positive and motivated. Therefore, over the next few weeks our sporting stars will be giving us their hints and tips for staying active at home and revealing how they are dealing with life away from the teams and sports they love. First up we called Sale Sharks and Scotland winger, Byron McGuigan, to hear how he has adapted to such a drastic change in surroundings, from leaving the camaraderie at Carrington to individual work in self-isolation: “This has been a bit of the unknown for all of us, we only got told a week ago that we won’t be playing for a while. From this week we’re housebound and I’m spending plenty of time on the Wattbike and luckily the weather is being kind to us so I’m taking the opportunity to do weights in the back garden. In total, I’m probably able to average around two hours of training per day at the moment. Additionally, getting fresh air where I can is really important and I’m using the one opportunity for outdoor activity to walk the dog.” This time will undoubtedly be mentally challenging for many. For those individuals whose normal day to day activity would revolve around being part of an active team, self-isolation and limited interaction with family and friends will be a challenge. However, McGuigan reiterated that the health of those closest to us and reducing the strain on our public services takes priority: “No one’s too sure when the virus is going to pass and when the season’s going to kick on, but we have to remember that this is much bigger than rugby and sport. Maintaining people’s safety by following Government guidelines is the most important thing in the world at the moment” Within the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it sometimes may be difficult to get the right balance of work and family life, and Byron believes that these weeks are important for valuable family time: “I’ve been playing this game professionally for 10 years, so I’m seeing this time out as a positive. It will allow me the time to rejuvenate my body and, as long as I ensure I keep mentally strong and focussed, come back to the game better than ever. I’ve been away with Scotland and Sale over the past year, we train and play week in-week out. This next few weeks gives me special time with my family, which I haven’t had in a long time and that is great. Quality time at home and letting my body recover is massive” The prolific winger also stressed how vital it is to keep communicating with each other, even if we can’t do this face to face right now. McGuigan gave an insight into the various ways in which he has been interacting with teammates and friends in the past week: “It’s important to stay as interactive with others as possible at this time. All the lads are in a WhatsApp group, so we’re always in touch on there and I’m FaceTiming and calling my friends each day. Obviously, there’s a brilliant machine called the Playstation 4, so I’ve been catching up with AJ and a few of the other lads on Fortnite in the evenings which has been good fun and brought some laughter” Aside from working towards returning to training and playing with the Sharks in the future, Byron is also using this time to plan for his next coaching venture, as it was announced earlier this week that he’d be joining Preston Grasshoppers as their new Backs and Defence coach next year: “I’m planning for my coaching next season and making sure I’m ready to hit the ground running with that. I’m setting up some drills, some defensive principles and some attacking plays, just things like that” Byron ended the call by offering his advice to other athletes and anyone else who may be initially struggling to adapt to this change in lifestyle: “My advice to everyone would be to listen to the Governments advice, stay at home, look after yourselves and most importantly, look after each other. Respecting social distancing but staying in touch with your friends, family and community is incredibly important, not just for your mental health but for others, this, coupled with maintaining an active lifestyle and good nutrition will ensure we make the best of the unprecedented times we find ourselves in.” Stay tuned for future Lockdown Lowdown conversations with Morson athletes in the coming weeks and most importantly, keep safe. Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates.Find out more
In the second edition of our Lockdown Lowdown series, we spoke with former boxer and now trainer, manager and promoter Kieran Farrell to see how he has used his surroundings to continue his work - and find out what he has learnt during this time. The term workaholic is one that doesn’t get thrown around lightly, but that is exactly what Kieran is. In the past year, Farrell has hosted numerous sell-out shows across the North West; coached various fighters up and down the country; and through his management guided his brother to fight on the biggest platform in the sport – Matchroom Boxing. Taking a man away from the comfortable chaos of that lifestyle that he ultimately thrives in is understandably going to take some getting used to, and the 29-year-old discussed how much his daily routine has changed: “The main thing is making sure my kids are learning during this time above any of my work. My daughter logs onto an online workplace where she can study, whilst my son is just coming out of nursery so it’ll be his first year in reception when he goes back in. It’s a massive change of scenery for me, I’m usually out of the house training at 5:30 in the morning whereas now, I’ve thrown myself into doing more housework than anything to the point where I might run out of things to clean!” As well as training professionals, Kieran also coaches children from a variety of age groups, and has made sure that members of his classes have the appropriate regime set up to keep them active and healthy outside of the gym environment: “I sent a routine out to the kids in the gym of ten exercises and ten reps, such as burpees, sit ups, squats etc. That is what I do with the kids to finish off their sessions anyway and I’ve told every parent with children that come to my gym, to make sure they keep up with that every day, as well as their running. When they come back to the gym, they’ll be ahead of schedule and ready to go in September, when the season starts again.” As previously mentioned, 2019 was a massive year for Kieran’s brother Nathan and the work rate is still as strong as ever for the 3-0 super-lightweight with plenty of big opportunities and fights coming soon: “Nathan lives on the same street as the gym, so I’ve allowed him to go in the gym on his own whilst adhering to self-isolation and he’s following a plan that I have set up for his own time and personal space, as are the other pros.” In a time where we all need something to brighten our day, social media has shown that we can bring each other a bit of happiness with various challenges ranging from Tik Tok dances to childhood photo nominations. Kieran discussed the positive impact these challenges have had in uniting people: “I got tagged in a feel-good challenge on Instagram, where each person has to sing and nominate someone else to do the same and that did bring a smile to my face. Things like that are good in times like these to help bring people together when we can’t be around in person. A lot of the lads that took part are fighters that I manage and don’t train, so it’s nice to be able to catch up when I don’t get to see them every day anyway” Kieran closed the interview by stating that despite how career driven we may be, that the wellbeing of ourselves and our loved ones should always be our biggest priority - and hopes that this togetherness is maintained going forward: “The brain injury I suffered all those years ago made me realise how precious life is. It’s very easy to get caught up with work and think that is our biggest focus, but recent weeks have shown us that the health of our families should always be our biggest concern and that our time with our loved ones is incredibly important. I hope everyone stays safe, active and looks after their families.” Stay tuned for further updates from Morson’s sporting stars and continue to keep safe.Find out more
The apprentice jockey Megan Nicholls, daughter of 11 times National Hunt winning trainer Paul, surprised a few people when she made the switch from jumps to flats back in 2014. In the last few years, she’s ridden to well over 60 victories and now finds herself riding her two of her father’s horses on the flats at Royal Ascot as racing resumes following suspension during the coronavirus pandemic. A little over a year since the Queen paid Paul Nicholls' stables a visit, Royal Ascot will be without Her Majesty's presence for the first time in her 68-year reign, with the meeting this year taking place behind closed doors due to the continuing social distancing restrictions in place for all sporting events. We spoke to Megan, long time Morson-sponsored jockey following a tricky last few months and her June wins for her fathers’ stable. In the winter last year, Megan spent some time working with horses in Dubai, before returning to the UK. "It was something I'd never done before and it as a really great experience. It was good to have the chance to go somewhere else and see how they do things differently." Before long, the UK had been put into lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, Megan was based in Thirsk, riding out locally for trainer Kevin Ryan, based just a short distance up the road that was easily accessible despite the lockdown rules. The restrictions on travel made it impractical for her to visit her father's stables in Ditcheat, Somerset. "Obviously, the horses have to be ridden during that time and looked after as normal. It was about finding a routine and finding ways to manage things well during the crisis. It was much the same at my Dad's stables as well. A lot of the horses at his stables are on their holidays at the moment because the jump season is over but he still has some horses in that are ready to run through the summer, with those riding on the flats. It's all been a bit different but luckily everyone has been sensible and adapted to the changes well and everything has run smoothly." With the resumption of the flats season in June, Megan has already ridden two winners for her father at Pontefract - Christopher Wood and Oleg. "They both ran really well and they both won, so I'm obviously delighted with that. One was having his first start on the flats for us [Christopher Wood] and the other had only had one start and we got two winners. They're both really exciting horses that will be looking towards bigger aims and better races towards the middle-end of the season." Even though the racing season has returned, all meetings will be taking place behind closed doors for the near future, which has been a strange experience for many jockeys. "We've all adapted to the changes now but obviously a lot of the atmosphere at these race courses is because of the crowd and it has been weirdly quiet but it's great to be back racing and hopefully things will keep going in the right direction and the crowds will be left back in at the right time." One of the horses Megan will be riding at Royal Ascot is Ashutor, in the 4:40 on Tuesday 16th. The six-year-old returns to the flats under a new trainer after a break of almost two years, after some mixed performances on the hurdles in 2019 punctuated by a win at Catterick Bridge under jockey Harry Cobden in February 2020. "It's his first run on the flat for us. He's shown loads of ability at home and he did well on the flats in France. He's been slightly disappointing over hurdles, however sometimes you find that some of these horses thrive back on the flat. Hopefully he can run well. It's a very competitive race like all of the races at Ascot so we're hoping for a smooth run round and fingers crossed he can run a big race." Another of Paul Nicholls’ horses that was meant to be jockeyed by Megan at Royal Ascot was Red Force One, co-owned by Morson CEO Ged Mason, Sir Alex Ferguson and the Done family. Red Force One’s most recent win came at Fakenham in October 2019, again under Harry Cobden, but was unfortunately balloted out. "Red Force One got balloted out unfortunately so he isn't running which is frustrating but he does have an entry next week." All at Morson would like to wish Megan and Paul Nicholls stables the very best during Royal Ascot and beyond. Follow @MorsonGroup on Twitter for the latest news from our Morson-sponsored sporting ambassadors and moreFind out more