Interview: Michael Witt - Warrior #134

Interview: Michael Witt - Warrior #134
Born in Toowoomba, QLD, Michael was not only a talented Rugby League player from a young age but was also a Champion Junior Boxer. Witt played 179 First Grade games in both the NRL (94) and English Super League (85). Over the course of his 179 Career Games he represented 6 Rugby League clubs over a 12 year career (Parramatta 27, Manly 20, NZ Warriors 43, Crusaders RL 42, London Broncos 43 and St George 4).

Witt was offered a scholarship with the Eels in 1999 and went on to play in the SG Ball Grand Final where his team unfortunately went down at the hands of Wests in a tight affair, 18-16.

One of the best goal kickers to play the game, Witt's goal kicking was radar like which saw him go close to breaking the most consecutive goals record set by El Masri as well as smashing Halligan's season percentage record in the same season.

Today the NZ Warriors Faither Supporters Group have been lucky enough to have a few moments of Michael's spare time, where we can ask him a few questions and hopefully learn a little more about the classy half who will no doubt go down as one of the best looking blokes to play the game.

Faithers: Okay, let's get the most obvious questions the Warriors Supporters want to ask out of the way first. So, if you listen close enough, on a day where the wind is blowing strong from the South, you can still hear the echoes of "PUT THE %*$#^&! BALL DOWN" left behind from thousands of NZ Warriors Fans after your try in the 2008 Finals game against the Melbourne Storm. Firstly, was there a moment between you looking back at Smith to the time you put the ball down where you thought to yourself "holy shit! I might have messed this right up", or were you completely and utterly in control of the whole situation? Secondly, are you able to share what Steve Price said to you after the try had been awarded?
Michael: I like to think I was in total control. What I was trying to do was stand in the corner for as long as possible to run the clock down. Adam Blair was chasing and he run past me so I thought I'd run the clock. I stood for a bit but as soon as I seen Cam Smith I put it down. It looked a lot worse than it was. As I went to throw the ball in the air Smithy kicked it so looked close but never in doubt. I think Pricey said you're mad now take as much time as you can with the kick.

Faithers: Where did it all begin for you as a Rugby League player?
Michael: Toowoomba QLD. Newtown Lions

Faithers: If Rugby League didn't work out, where do you think your career and life path would have taken you?
Michael: Not sure to be honest. I was very single minded that I would make a career of football. I put that before everything as a kid.

Faithers: What team did you support as a kid and who was your favourite player?

Michael: Newcastle knights. Robbie O'Davis was my hero.

Faithers: What other sports did you play growing up?
Michael: I did some boxing and I played a bit of basketball.

Faithers: Wikipedia has your nickname listed as "Wittdog". What's the meaning behind that and what other nicknames have you had over the years?
Michael: Not sure how Wittdog came about. As you can imaging with a last name like Witt I've had a few. Most of them came from opposition fans haha.

Faithers: Who taught you how to kick goals? You had an unusual style but it sure paid dividends when with the Warriors.
Michael: I worked very closely with Jason Taylor at Parramatta when I was younger. He was unreal for me. I added in the knee lift myself when I went to Manly to slow my approach to the ball. Didn't look real good but it worked for me so I stuck with it.

Faithers: During the 2007 season it was almost as if you couldn't miss a shot at goal. You ended the season with a strike rate at an incredible 92.5%, breaking Halligan's record for best success rate in a season and went within 7 of equaling the great Hazem El Masri's most consecutive kicks record. Were those records in the back of your mind while lining up your shot at goal or was it just business as usual when you had the kicking tee in position?
Michael: It's all the media wanted to talk to me about at the time but I didn't worry me that much. I wasn't worried about the record at all. I just wanted to win.

Faithers: You were a promising boxer as a kid and have gone back in the ring since retiring from Footy. Are you still fighting?
Michael: I just had the 1 fight because it was something I always wanted to do. I went back to my trainer from my childhood days. I would love to have another fight next year but just see how it goes. The night of my fight I lost a good mate, my trainers son who past of a brain injury received in a fight later that night. That shock me pretty badly.

Faithers: What are you doing with yourself these days? Still running Witt Bros Developments?
Michael: No Witt Bros was just something my and my older brother ran whilst we played. We both love real estate so we would build homes and sell them.

Faithers: How did you find the transition from NZ to playing Super League for the London Broncos?
Michael: I loved my time in the Super League. After 4 years I was ready to bring my family home though. You don't get used to that weather over there. I was lucky enough to play in 4 countries so we had some great times.

Faithers: Were you disappointed that the Dragons signed Benji Marshall who effectively replaced you in the starting lineup?
Michael: Yeah I was at the time. I came back trained my backside off got the 7 jersey to start the season and was ready for a big year. But I dislocated my shoulder in round 1 and battled injury so the club seen an opportunity and they took it.

Faithers: What was the highlight of your footy career?
Michael: Probably our finals run in 08 at the Warriors. The beards, the fans and the black outs at Mt Smart unbelievable. Great memories.

Faithers: What did the Warriors as a club do for mentally preparing our boys for game day during your time?
Michael: We used to meet away from Mt Smart on game day. Get strapped and ready then arrive at the stadium on the bus together. I always felt like we were going to win at home. As I said the Warrior fans were the best home fans by far.

Faithers: What is the funniest off field story you have of one of the boys while you were at the club?
Michael: Georgie Gatis. He thought I messed up his locker 1 day so when I left he emptied both mine and Tony Martins lockers. Put everything in a garbage bag and sent me a video of him setting it all on fire. Haha Lunatic.

Faithers: In 2009, you left league to play union for Otago with hopes to play for the All Blacks, what made you decide to return to league after only half a dozen games for Otago? And why the All Blacks, why not the Wallabies?
Michael:I had an offer to go to rugby after Ivan had told me that no matter what I would not be playing anymore first grade at the warriors. John Hart encouraged me to go as he thought I would go well at union. I met with coaches in the AB'S set up and it really excited me. The coach at Otago if I'm totally honest had no idea and I didn't want my career to end playing there. Again I had an offer to go to Wales and one of my best mates Tony Martin was there so I decided to leave.

Faithers: You represented QLD Rugby League in both U/15's and U/16's in 1999 and 2000 respectively, then in 2003 you were selected to represent NSW Rugby League in the U/19's and then in 2004 named in the emerging Queensland State of Origin squad. Was it difficult for yourself going back and forth between states and was it something that you were being pressured into as coaches/selectors were vying for your loyalty to their respective teams? Or was it something you were happy to go along with at the time and was something you were deciding on your own?
Michael: I never played NSW 19's because I was playing 1st grade and didn't want to put that in risk. Back then you played for the state where you were based. I was always a Qld'er. I got close but was never really good enough to play Origin.

Faithers: Over the years you have been lucky enough to have been coached by some of the best in the business. Is there a coach that stands out above the rest and what is it about their coaching that makes them superior?
Michael: They were all great coaches in their own right. Probably Ivan, I liked his style the most.

Faithers: Who, in your opinion, was the best player you've ever played alongside and why?
Michael: Very hard to say. I don't want to single out one. That would disrespect to many others. I played with some of the greats. Very blessed.

Faithers: Is there a player you wished you could have had the chance to play alongside but were never able to?
Michael: Andrew Johns. No doubt.

Faithers: You've appeared in many Charity Calendars over the years and have frequently been referred to as one of the sexiest men in Rugby League. In 2007, you were one of the finalists in the Adidas Action 3 Sexiest Men in League Competitions but ended up being beaten by Brett Stewart. Are there any hard feelings between the two of you over the result and have you ever questioned him about being involved in possible vote counting fraud because dead set mate, as a straight bloke i can see that you win that final every day of the week! Toovey would be demanding an investigation!
Michael: Haha. I was actually told I had won and that I needed to fly to Sydney to get the award on the footy show. But we had just been knocked out of the comp and I wanted to go have a drink with the boys. Was a good choice I had a great time!!

Faithers: How is the body holding up from all the injuries over the years? Is there an injury in particular that is still causing you grief?

Michael: Not too bad. I have to keep myself in shape or I will fall apart. Probably have the most trouble with my neck and back. Bulging disks

Faithers: Do you sing in the shower? If yes, what's your go to song?
Michael: No I don't really.

Faithers: What sort of music do you enjoy? (favourite band/song/artist?)
Michael: Love six60. Can listen to them all day

Faithers: What's your favourite food?
Michael: Chips with chicken salt.

Faithers: You're moving to a deserted island and only get to take 3 things. What do you take?
Michael: My wife and 2 daughters.

Faithers: What sort of a kid were you like in school?
Michael: I like to think I was a good kid. Bit of a rat a times but always respectful.

Faithers: Who wins in a fight, Mario or Sonic?
Michael: Never played computer games have no idea.

Faithers: Finally, what does the future have in store for Michael Witt?
Michael: I live on the Gold Coast now and love it. Hopefully be old and happy here for a long time.

Much love
Warrior 134.
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