We all live in Bicester . . . one of the fastest-growing towns in England. It has a population of about 33,000 and is growing. We are about 15 miles northeast of the famous university city of Oxford.
All of us are rugby mad . . . I played for Bicester RFC for a good few years. I started when I was 17 and played through until around my 40s. Daniel’s younger brother, Liam, has played since he was 5, and will be 16 next month. He has just got through the first selection process for Oxfordshire RFC.
Daniel also started at the age of 5. Nichola, my wife, has been a rugby mum all the way through, even getting involved with cooking post-match meals for the boys’ teams. We both try to watch the boys every time they play. This often meant one of us with Liam and the other one with Daniel. We swapped
most weeks to enable us to watch both boys fairly.
Daniel had mentioned . . . that a coach had approached him about the possibility of coming to New Zealand to play. To be honest, we didn’t think too much about it. Daniel was trying to secure a place in the England Counties under-18 squad at the time. When he didn’t get selected, he was gutted. About
two weeks after this, we were speaking to Colin Jackson on the phone. It all happened so fast. Naturally, Daniel was over the moon and it helped him get over the disappointment of not getting through the England selection.
We were a little apprehensive . . . but both realised what a superb opportunity it was. If you’re going to learn rugby, you might as well learn in the country that has the very best. From the moment Daniel knew this was going to happen, he was so excited. He had never flown on his own before – especially
not to the other side of the world. Our only concern was that Daniel would arrive safely.
We have no worries . . . about how Daniel is being looked after in Oamaru. We have spoken to Graham and Warren Pitches via email. They both put our minds at rest. Both seem to be making sure Daniel has settled in well. When Daniel arrived, he was met and driven back to Oamaru. He instantly felt welcome.
By all accounts . . . he’s settled into the team and his new surroundings. making lots of new friends. We are pleased he’s making the best of this opportunity. The only drawback is the simple fact we can’t watch him play, which I know Daniel misses too. We have had some feedback from Graham, which is always nice.
All of us would dearly love . . . to come over and watch him play in New Zealand. However, as this trip was arranged at relatively short notice, our work commitments and pre-planned holidays won’t allow a few weeks in New Zealand, unfortunately. However, if Daniel was lucky enough to be asked back next year, and he wanted to return, I’m sure we would be making plans to visit. The added bonus of the Lions tour would help.
Most Sunday evenings . . . Daniel Skypes us, letting us know what he’s been doing that week and how training and match day went. He will often message me if something is on his mind during the week. We can tell by chatting to him just how much he is enjoying this experience and feeling at home.
Often the calls are cut short because he’s doing something with the other imports – fishing seems to be one of his new interests. The fact that we can see him and chat via Skype makes the distance no problem.
He’s only a call away.