Farewell, for now.
I would have preferred to do this in person, but as COVID has had such an impact on 2020, I thought I’d just share a note about my decision not to recommit to the club fully next year.
I’ve had an amazing time at Blackheath, achieved a lot more than I thought I ever would, but the decision to move back to Bournemouth at the end of the 2019/20 season felt the right one and is ultimately the reason for me calling time on my regular playing days.
All those of you that have been present anytime that I’ve been given recognition for reaching a milestone will be familiar with my usual response, in that when I first joined the club I could not break into the team and how, because of this, I’ve never taken my place in the team for granted.
Of course, I firmly disagreed with the selection in the early days, but that’s part of sport and you don’t always fit into everyone’s puzzle. It got to the point where I wasn’t enjoying anything about rugby, and it would actually cause me more stress than anything else.
I got the feeling this would be the same in the following season, and whilst completing my degree all I wanted to do was play regular rugby, so I left, dropped down a couple of leagues, and did exactly that. I think I played all but two games that season for Thurrock and reminded myself that I did have a lot to offer and that given the chance I could make a difference in competitive National 1 side. At the end of the season I sat down and decided I would give it another go at the Club and that’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made in rugby.
In the 2013/14 season the Club was going through a bit of a transition itself with a change of management, coaching staff, and with a few players moving on it meant I had a real opportunity to fight for a place in the team.
So, having spoken with Leggie about a return I came back and had one of the most enjoyable seasons of my career, which is strange as, if you remember, we were in the relegation zone at the Christmas break!
We managed to turn the second half and had a bit of a purple patch – one particular win over at The Rock against Rosslyn Park I can recall! It was a slightly mixed bag of the season, but we managed to secure league safety on our annual Ladies Day with only a couple games left, so that was pretty cool, not to mention a huge relief!
So, while it was an up and down season for the Club, for me it was the first time I’d really had the opportunity to express myself and show what I had to offer to the team just through playing regularly.
Since then I grew as a figure in the squad and have been able to keep my shirt in the team, taking my personal appearances to 208, with nearly 150 of these as captain, setting a club record of 158 consecutive games, as well as earning seven caps for the England Counties side and having been very recently included in the Blackheath team of the decade.
So now thinking back, I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved, whilst being at Blackheath, but I could never have done without the great management, coaches and players that have all played their part in such a great club.
I would love to see the Club finally reach its goal of winning the league and gaining promotion to the Championship, and I believe this is more than achievable with a great coach like Shanners in charge and the new squad he’s assembling.
Shanners and I have discussed things, and he knows I would like to have the chance to play a couple of final games to say goodbye, given that this season had been cut short due to the pandemic.
I will be available for back up in case of injuries, or giving others boys, a rest and if that can be part of helping the team reach its ultimate goal then that would be a dream come true for me.
I really would thank everyone involved at Blackheath for making my rugby career something I will look back on with the fondest of memories where I have made many lifelong friends.
I am saying goodbye, but hopefully just goodbye for now.
With all my heart,