Old Boy update – Rhuaridh Dawson (2006-2015, Aldridge)
Since leaving NSB, Rhuaridh has had a successful rugby career, playing for Newcastle Falcons and Penzance Pirates. Read more about his sporting journey below.
Before joining NSB in Year 5, I knew I loved sport, but I had only played football (for my local team, Ryton) and tennis (in the park with my Granny and Grandad every summer). By contrast, from trying to top the table tennis leader board at break time, to the hotly contested lunchtime derby to find out which form was the best at football, and not forgetting the house competitions spanning every sport imaginable, in joining NSB I couldn’t get away from opportunities to test my sporting flair.
My PE teachers at NSB were very supportive and I really enjoyed being involved in the different sports teams. A lesson which will always stay with me is Mr Harris reiterating that our cricket matches were “all about the one percenters”, with every small action (for example, extra training and encouraging teammates) counting towards the overall success of our team.
My first memories of rugby are mildly scarred by my Dad watching Scotland’s Six Nations performance on the television and screaming in the desperate hope that they would return to their glory days (watch this space…). As the smallest person in my year, and a classic footballer who hated contact, I’d dismissed rugby as the sport for me on the basis of the physicality of the game. This all changed when a new PE teacher, Mr Hogarth, joined NSB. Mr Hogarth made many positive changes to sport at NSB, but most notably to me was the fact he made PE lessons fun. Mr Hogarth was coaching at Blaydon RFC and encouraged me and a few others to join in with the junior training. Hesitant, I went along to the training and, playing alongside my friends, I was sold.
I became involved in county rugby and was selected to play at scrum half for Northumberland and the Tri Counties. Later, I was chosen to play for the North of England and, ultimately, the England Counties U18 team. I was also involved with the Scottish Exiles squad, began training with the Newcastle Falcons Academy and, of course, continued to play and develop my game at NSB. I played my first international game for England Counties U18 against France – the first game on our path to winning the Tri Nations Competition.
At 17 years old, I received my first professional rugby contract with the Newcastle Falcons and had an incredible summer playing for the England 7s at the Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa and being awarded with the “Sport Newcastle Rising Star Award”. A few highlights of my time playing for the Newcastle Falcons include: being the second youngest Falcon to play in the English Premiership (a nerve-racking experience against Northampton Saints); being selected for the Scotland U20 squad, where I made my debut in the U20 Six Nations against France; playing for Scotland in the U20 World Cup in Georgia and, in particular, facing the New Zealand Haka; and the numerous opportunities to travel, including to Russia, France and Philadelphia. I have also had the delightful pleasure of sitting on every bench in the English Premiership.
In 2019, a fantastic opportunity arose for me to sign a contract with the Cornish Pirates and I made the big 500 mile move from Newcastle to Penzance. My time in Cornwall was truly unforgettable; affording me a chance to develop both my game and myself as a person. Unfortunately Covid, as for many, has intervened in my sporting journey – raising many issues for sport generally and particularly coinciding with the RFU reviewing their funding of the Championship. However, as the virus lessens its grip on the country, things are on the up, and I’m ready and raring to get back on the field.
Reflecting on my career thus far, if I could give one piece of advice, it would be to follow your dreams and not look back. As someone who was repeatedly told that it was going to be difficult to become a professional rugby player, I hold no regrets about pursuing my passion. As for my future, I’ll keep you posted!