The Warriors Academy has enjoyed another impression season with young stars such as Matt Kvesic, Andy Short, James Freeman, Louis Silver and Rob Wood all pledging their futures in recent weeks. As the curtain falls of the season for the Academy hopefuls, we look back on the last 12 months with Academy Assistant Manager Gary Meechan.
It’s interesting, my whole focus and attention is here at Worcester, that comes after being involved with the Academy for the past nine seasons. And yet, to others outside the game, it is just another job, “do you still do that thing with rugby?”, “So I suppose you don’t have anything to do now until September?” the programme here will hopefully continue.
We are fortunate within the Warriors Academy, the programme changes every season for us, not because it needs to, but because we feel it should, and it often naturally does with new young athletes coming on board, and the newly appointed ‘senior members’ moving into the next phase of their athletic development.
This season had been no different, a new crop, along with last season’s promotions into the 1st XV squad. Change was due, and happily it came in the form of new talent. From the end of June until the UCAS offers come out in August, we always play open shop to a batch of hopefuls all vying for the chalice of a place in the Warriors Academy. The competition is fierce, made more so by last year’s boys, they are not happy to gift positions too easily to these new kids on the block after all they were made to work for it, and as the saying goes, there’s always something better coming up behind.
Lee Douglas, or Boz, as he is ‘affectionately’ known, along with Lee ‘Cleaves’ Cleaver delivers their balanced brand of CV and hypertrophy, loads of running, but this year everything is packaged within a game plenty of ball, no less hard for the boys, but certainly more entertaining to watch. This is where we find the character, wishing I had a tenner for every time someone says they want to be a professional rugby player, this is where the mind tells you NO well before the body, and by the time the body starts chirping up, the mind tennis puts you as 40 to love down, last game, last set!
August 17 comes around and we look at the guys faces, and we more than often like what we see. It’s typical, they are enjoying it, mental note to selves, must be harder next year!
So what did we get out of this, well no surprises with some, Dave Askew, James Freeman, Andy Short, we’ve seen them in the EPDG over the past years, they are tough boys, and they hurt, but they know it’s part of the deal. So much so that they are asked to train with the 1st’s during August, preparing and playing in the pre-season friendlies.
And there you go, hiding in amongst the midst of all are the surprise packages. Louis Silver, scrum half, yet another Herefordshire boy, he had been in the Warriors Apprenticeship programme but who knew, we kind of hoped as we do with all the lads, but we all do now, alright originally by injury default, but coming on against Leeds, the 33rd member of our Academy to get 1st XV Premiership honours, welcome my boy!
Sam Miller, yes we knew he was quick, had fast feet, Duracell bunny came to mind! Now Sam struggled at first, he did not know what hit him, his natural ability had always shone through, but he had never hurt like this. This is the point, for most youngsters coming into the full time body, when they cannot decipher injury from sheer pain. This is the break point for many, but fortunately not for all, and not for Sam. He has developed beyond our expectations, a startling combination of power and pace, overwhelming some of the best in the A league this year.
I could probably wax lyrically about most of the Academy, and I’ve mentioned some that aren’t always in view, but this year has seen a good mix, of all positions, and we look forward to receiving this summer intake in the same way. In the present climate, what used to be a three-year commitment to train, following a Longer term athlete development model, has been condensed somewhat. Players sometimes expect to have ‘made it’ in the first season, and if not that’s it, back to school. A lot will depend on the individual’s maturation, chronological age, or how quick he can adapt to training will allow him to move out of our train to train environment, into the train to compete world of A league and possible loan rugby, or even for the purported few, the 1st XV.
Ultimately it comes down to training to win, every day training for the game, maintaining fitness and strength, balancing rest and recovery with the challenges that are 1st XV. A special thought and mention to Earl Collins, he hurt himself playing against Sale in March, he is healing well, and itching to get back to Worcester, so hurry back mate.
I look forward to all our guys stepping up to the mark, the movement from Academy to 1st’s has been a subject of conjecture for some, and applauded by many, we will continue to use it as a benchmark for our success here at Worcester – and long may it continue.
Have a great Summer and thanks for the continued support.