By Ollie Godden
With the likes of Will Carling, Will Greenwood and more recently Josh Beaumont leaving Durham University and entering into a career of club rugby and international representation, the institution can be seen as a breeding ground for budding rugby players with hopes of playing the game professionally.
One man who is acutely aware of the opportunity DURFC provides, is Prop Adam Brocklebank, and having gone from a 16-year-old rugby novice to representing England Students and Newcastle Falcons in the space of four years, it’s fair to say his rise in the game has been meteoric.
Only taking up rugby after a move to Myerscough College for sixth form, Brocklebank started his career as a number eight before his second year saw him called up to the England Counties u18 side as a loose-head prop, a position he has since filled with tremendous aplomb. Speaking to Palatinate, Brocklebank described how he was offered a scholarship at Durham after leaving college, and has since developed his game exponentially with the quality coaching that he has been afforded access to. Brocklebank calls out coach Alex Keay as an especially key figure. During Brocklebank’s brief stint in Durham, Keay has provided him with “all the tools” needed to develop his game, enough to earn him a professional contract from Newcastle Falcons as soon as the end of his first academic year.
Since this call up, Brocklebank describes how his first pre-season with the Premiership club exposed him “to the best coaching I had ever had”, and his resulting improvements were plain to see.
The 21-year-old has also met a host of influential individuals along his path to success, including Falcons’ Durham alumni Simon Hammersley and Sean Robinson, who he says have been valuable contacts when in need of help on, or off, the pitch.
Speaking on the opportunity Durham can provide for a budding professional athlete such as Hammersley, or Robinson, Brocklebank described the institution as “a shop window that I never would have been in otherwise”, while the inaugural BUCS Super Rugby has given him and his team-mates the opportunity to showcase their talent to a wider audience. The presence of Durham University, along with support from his parents has, he says, helped to put him in the privileged position he finds himself in today.
With regards to his progression as an athlete, Brocklebank’s performances in his second year saw him rewarded with an England Students call up, an accolade he was honoured to receive. Games against France and Ireland provided Brocklebank with invaluable international experience, whilst exposure to yet more high class coaching saw a further progression in his already outstanding ability. Moreover, the influence of Falcons coaches Micky Ward and Dean Richards has been “a massive bonus when it comes to personal development” and he is under no illusion at the opportunity, describing it as one he must “grab with both hands.”
The belief in Brocklebank from Richards, a former British and Irish Lions and coaching compatriot Ward is evident, as a call up to the senior squad came soon after his 21st birthday.
“I was at him picking up my laptop and visiting my parents” Brocklebank explains, “I got a call from the coaches saying they wanted to involve me in the squad for the Anglo-Welsh cup game against Saracens at the weekend.” An injury to Alex Rogers in the 30th minute afforded Brocklebank an extended debut run, a moment he, unsurprisingly, holds cherished, saying, “It was a dream playing in front of so many people, I absolutely loved it and it gives me that desire and hunger to keep working hard.”
Without question, Brocklebank has a long way to go if he is to make a career out of the game that he has fallen in love with so quickly, but his level-headedness is clear to see, whilst under no illusion at the tough task that lies ahead, it is a task he is willing to scrap for. “I’d like to go all the way” he suggested, “maybe if I keep my head down, keep trying hard, maybe something will come of it, but a career in rugby is definitely something I’m aiming for.”
Following in the footsteps of many before him, there is no doubt that Brocklebank has the desire, ability and hunger to follow his dream.
Photograph: Newcastle Falcons RFC