Written by Jim Roberts
Edited by Genevieve Gordon
Wheelchair rugby was on the back burner. I’d returned to university and was undertaking a placement year as an assistant ‘architectural technologist’ with J M Architects, an architects practice in London’s west end. Work was definitely my main focus I was looking to impress, I was trying hard to secure a long term job once I’d finished my university degree.
I’d really become immersed in London life, working hard and partying just as hard.
I did still play rugby but not for any local teams, manly because I couldn’t commit to any training because of my work hours.
I played as a guest for ‘The North East Bulls’ during the club season.
I was doing enough to get noticed because I was invited to attend a GB development selection camp in Southampton. This was really exciting! I remember even using up some of my work holiday so that I could attend. Although I was a fast player, I was way off the skill level of most of the guys there. My general game awareness needed a lot of improvement.
I didn’t get dropped at the first cut so I must have been doing something right. I was told I needed to work on my fitness and ball skills. The coaches knew that my placement was taking up a lot of my time, so got me to watch games knowing it would help my tactical understanding of the game.
I started to step up my own training, I was looking for anywhere to train I could, sometimes I could use the local leisure centre if it wasn’t too busy, but predominantly I’d do my training in car parks. It was mainly fitness and ball drills that I was working on anything that would give me an edge at the next development camp.
An enormous boost to my game was when ‘The Meningitis Trust’ had given me funding so I could get my own rugby chair, this made such a difference having something that was bespoke for me rather than borrowing other people’s old chairs. I’m enormously thankful for the support they’ve given, and continue to provide.
My placement year was the perfect time to be in London, it was the summer of 2012, the Olympics and Paralympics had gripped the nation and there was an electricity throughout the whole capital. I was lucky enough to go to beach volleyball and track cycling during the olympics, I still remember the wall of noise that followed the cyclists around the velodrome.
After numerous attempts at getting tickets for the Wheelchair Rugby my persistence paid off big time, I’d managed to get tickets for the bronze an gold medal games. Although I was incredibly hungover, (it had been my birthday party the night before) I remember sitting in the venue, which was full to its capacity with eighteen thousand people, I got goosebumps wondering what it might be like to one day be in that position.