9th August 2017, 10:02
MEET THE TEAM: Matty Barron
Next up in our MEET THE TEAM series is Newcastle Thunder's Matty Barron.
Matty Barron, who qualifies to play for Wales through his Rhondda-born mother, has won a total of nine full caps.
It was because of those frequent visits to the South Wales valleys as a youth, that he dedicated his international career to Wales early on and was selected for the Wales under 19 side in 2006 where he played in the European Championships, scoring in game one but breaking his foot in game three.
A single season at York City Knights in 2011 aside, Barron has been a one club man with Newcastle Thunder throughout his professional career.
As a youngster, he played for amateur club Gateshead Panthers, who often had to travel down to Yorkshire to play matches due to their location.
He then joined Keighley Cougars' academy and, after studying at university, was given a contract at Thunder.
Matty in action for Wales against Keighley
Since turning professional with Newcastle - then Gateshead - back in 2007, he has been there for nine of the eleven seasons that have followed.
To date, he has made a total of 148 appearances for the club, putting him high up in the list of all time appearances.
It was in the earlier stages of his time at Newcastle that Barron experienced success with the club.
After making 18 appearances in his debut season in 2007, he played 21 times the following year and helped Thunder to promotion from League 1, which was then known as National League Two.
Although they managed to survive 2009 in the Championship and even made it to the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup, the club was wound up in the close season, a new company was formed and Thunder retook their place in League 1 for 2010.
With a six-point deduction before the season had started as a result of their financial difficulties, Newcastle finished 2010 on minus two points and that led to Barron's move to York City Knights, who were a Championship club at the time.
However, after making five appearances for York in 2011, he decided to move back home and rejoined Thunder ahead of 2012.
They again finished bottom in 2012 and had to take a couple of their matches on the road to South Shields, but the club has been on the up ever since.
Newcastle finished seventh and fourth in 2013 and 2014 respectively and, in an expanded division in 2015, came eighth.
Last season, the north-east club lifted the League 1 Shield after finishing ninth in the regular season.
And, in 2017, Newcastle have made further progress; they have made the Super 8s and are now on track to make a push for the top four and play-offs.
"Now is the stablest that the club has been since we won the league in 2007," Barron admitted.
"In 2010, we had some really big defeats and had the record loss against Blackpool, so I felt I had to move on after that and needed a change.
"But I was back at the club after a season at York and now is definitely the stablest we've been.
Matty in action for Wales against Keighley
"The aim was to get in the top eight this season and we've done that. We're now hoping to push on."
To coincide with Newcastle's more successful times, Matty was heavily involved for the Dragons in 2008 and 2009 which is when we won his first full caps.
His next call-up came in 2014, when he played against Scotland, Ireland and France in the European Championship.
Barron featured again in 2015, but he unfortunately suffered a broken leg during Wales' charity match for Danny Jones against Keighley Cougars.
It kept him out of action for the best part of twelve months and it was only towards the back end of the 2016 campaign that he returned to fitness.
"I'm fully fit now and I'm ripping in," Barron said.
"We have a lot of front rowers at the club so we sometimes have to rotate, but I want to get in as many minutes as I can and push for a spot to Australia.
"When I broke my leg, it was always my aim to get back fit in time for the World Cup.
"To be honest, if you can't motivate yourself to get fit to play in a World Cup, you can't motivate yourself for anything.
"Playing for Wales is my proudest achievement. Ever since I was a kid, I've always said that I was going to play for Wales."
After suffering such a nasty injury, it has taken a great deal of hard work, commitment and perseverance for Barron to return to doing what he does best.
Playing in an improving Newcastle Thunder outfit, he will be hoping to impress in the final stages of the League 1 Super 8s to give himself the best chance of earning a plane ticket to Australia.
Matty with two of his three brothers and gran
Name: Matty Barron
Current club: Newcastle Thunder
Community club: Gateshead Panthers
Eligibility: Born in Durham. Eligible through his mother
Date of birth: 17/11/86
Wales heritage: #450; Wales caps: 9; Wales debut: 10/10/08; last Wales appearance: 05/10/15
SEE MATTY'S FULL RECORD FOR WALES HERE
YOU CAN FOLLOW MATTY ON TWITTER: @matty12barron
YOU CAN ALSO FOLLOW MATTY ON INSTAGRAM: @mattyjbarron
Wales' group matches at Rugby League World Cup 2017 are as follows:
PAPUA NEW GUINEA V WALES
Sir John Guise Stadium, Port Moresby
FIJI V WALES
WALES V IRELAND
Perth Rectangular Stadium
Get behind the boys at the World Cup this autumn by purchasing the new kit! View our online shop HERE.
Images from Matty Barron and ianlovell.com