It was a rather abrupt end to what had been a very successful season for Taunton Titans and a highlight in the career of full-back Gary Kingdom following the club’s promotion to National One. (Photo Credit: Clayton Jane Photography)

The Titans man picks up from where he left off as he takes us on to the next stage of his rugby journey in his latest blog for….

For those of you that read the first blog, thank you for returning and I hope they are offering a small insight into a rugby player’s journey.

To continue where I left off…. In the summer of 2001, I was finalising plans to start university at the end of September.

I was working at the local supermarket to earn some money prior to the move and also training with Kingsbridge RFC during their pre-season. It was my first pre-season experience at a rugby club but it was thoroughly enjoyable, I think it helped that I was young and fit so didn’t struggle too much with the fitness side of things.

This experience gave me my first real taste of senior rugby while also giving me the chance to achieve one of my childhood goals of representing the clubs first team. I played a couple games in the league and cup (that I can remember) before it was time for me to head off to Cheltenham in what was to be my home for the next four years.

My two years at Blundell’s had allowed me to experience living away from home in shared accommodation, which made the transition of university life in a shared house much easier. The first few weeks were a great life experience…. Meeting lots of new people, learning to cook for myself, and getting plenty of opportunities to ‘socialise’ to name a few.

Obviously, the first club I signed up to was the rugby club. Joining a club is an immediate opportunity to meet people with the same interests and passions as your own. Through the university rugby club, I forged some lifelong friends and memories and it really helped me become the person I am now.

After a couple of trial games, I was selected into the first team for the start of the league season. It was another step up the rugby ladder playing in the second tier of the university leagues across the south of England.

I did find it a challenge mixing all of these new opportunities and lifestyle, resulting in rugby taking a bit of a back step, if only in my own head. I was, however. enjoying every minute of it! Growing up I had been a relatively quiet person and not really that sociable, but with the experiences I had gained from both Blundell’s and now at the university, I had become much more sociable and far more comfortable within myself.

Not long after moving to Cheltenham, I was asked if I could come back to Devon and represent the county side in a then annual encounter against a Royal Navy team. It was a massive honour to be asked to play for the county’s senior team and it was a huge achievement. The game went very well, the team performed brilliantly and I enjoyed it immensely. I wasn’t aware at the time but I believe this game was the stepping stones towards the opportunities that lay in wait for me.

The first came relatively soon after when I received a phone call from a representative of Bath Rugby. They said that they were in need of a goal kicker in the U19 squad and if I would be interested in training with them. I did wonder to myself why anyone would say no to this and so consequently accepted.

Playing for the Bath U19’s was another massive personal achievement. I had grown up watching the great Bath rugby teams and had even taken a trip to watch them play at the Rec during a club tour as a youngster, so to get the chance to play there myself was incredible.

The season with the U19’s culminated in us winning the national competition at Franklin’s Gardens and I was also selected to play for Devon in their Tamar Cup derby with Cornwall. I played at full-back and kicked well, helping towards wins in both games. It had been a great season for me on a personal level and was finished off by my first opportunity to play at Twickenham in the Middlesex 7’s.

Although I only played a couple minutes towards the end of the game, it was another childhood dream to play at Twickenham, one I remember vividly that my Dad had unluckily missed out on when he and Kingsbridge had lost in the Pilkington Shield Semi-final.

The summer of 2002 was topped off when I signed my first contract with Bath to play in their U21’s for the next two seasons. However, with the impending collapse of the Academy system, I was offered a great opportunity to play on loan at a top National League One club (what is now the Championship.) It was another opportunity that I wasn’t going to miss. Tune in again for the next instalment….