Professionalism has made the concept of a ‘one-club man’ seem as outdated as the term ‘wing-forward’ and the idea that muddy mounds can double up as place-kicking tees
Obviously there are still some examples where players have spurned bigger pay packets and the lure of rich pickings elsewhere to stay loyal to their one and only club.
People like James Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester) and Joe Worsley (Wasps) fall into such a category. But they are the exception rather than the rule, certainly in the Premiership and increasingly so in the Championship with full-time status becoming more prevalent in English rugby’s second tier.
Indeed, it was only a few weeks ago in The Rugby Paper that Doncaster boss Brett Davey bemoaned the lack of loyalty in the game having lost a handful of the players he had helped nurture the season before to club’s no higher up the league ladder than the Knights; the implication being that money was the main motivating factor in these individuals deciding to up sticks and move on.
One player who has never been tempted to do likewise is Dave Jackson, a Nottingham man through and through. The wing/full-back came through the club’s mini and junior section to become a first team favourite.
On Monday, Jackson celebrated the 11th anniversary of his debut for the club, during which time he has clocked up a total of 281 appearances, scoring 91 tries in the process. Jackson told me recently that he never once though about leaving the Green & Whites despite the financial problems that dogged the club until recently.
Jackson would have notched his triple century by now had it not been for a spate of injuries – a shoulder problem keeping him sidelined as I write.
Fylde fly-half Richard Kenyon passed the 250 game mark for his club the other day having put in 12 years of loyal service for the Lancastrians. He is still going strong and playing an invaluable role as ever in Fylde’s push for a second promotion in as many years.
Ed Smithies, captain of Harrogate and a player at the North Yorkshire club man and boy, went even better a fortnight ago when he reached the 300-game milestone in the local derby against Otley. Fittingly, the full-back crowned the occasion with a try – his 126th in the club’s red, black and amber hoops – in what was a man-of-the-match performance.
I’m told that he is one of only seven people to have achieved the 300-game milestone in National League rugby.
One man who can claim an even more impressive record – and is still playing at the age of 36 (18 years after his debut) – is Kendal prop/back rower Billy Coxon. Coxon made his 400th appearance for the Cumbrian club on Saturday when he packed down against Bromsgrove. Legend has it that Sedgley Park once tried to tempt him away from Mint Bridge, but the locally born player turned down the approach – and any subsequent thoughts of retirement – to break new ground for longevity of service.
Others scattered throughout the National Leagues will have enjoyed similarly loyal careers, but to have two players reach the 300-game and 400-game milestone within the past fortnight is quite exceptional.