Bourne Grammar School trio learn lessons in the school of near-misses
Rudyard Kipling's famous poem If, extracts from which appear above the players' entrance at Wimbledon's Centre Court, have become all too real for three Bourne Grammar School students.
Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem If, extracts from which appear above the players’ entrance at Wimbledon’s Centre Court, have become all too real for three Bourne Grammar School students.
Fencer William Ferguson (13) of Carlby, a village six miles from Bourne, rugby full back Adam Castle (17) of Langtoft and hockey forward Brendan Andrews (16) of Bourne have all learned the truth of Kipling’s challenge to “meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same”.
In Brendan’s case, not even a goal for City of Peterborough under-18s was enough to avoid a heartbreaking defeat to West Yorkshire side Ben Rhydding in the semi-final of the English Hockey Under-18 Cup in April.
Brendan said: “We were considered a quite low-down side and they had six England internationals in their side.
“But we should have come out with a win because we had 15 short corners and only got three on target.
“Ben Rhydding scored two quick, lucky goals which almost made our heads drop, with ten minutes to go.
“Then I scored a goal back which gave us that bit of belief and if we had three or four minutes more in the game, we’d have gone on to win.”
What made things worse for Brendan, team coach Paul Hillsdon and the City of Peterborough under-18s side was the fact that it was the second time in three years that the club had reached the last four in the competition, losing to Surbiton in the final two years earlier.
Adam’s near-miss was for Spalding under-17s in the Midlands Regional Plate semi-final, on the home soil of Memorial Field, Spalding, against Worcester.
The young Elephants’ typically slow start saw them concede a try to Worcester’s Eamonn Daley before bouncing back with one of their own from centre JJ Faulkner which Adam converted for a 7-5 half-time lead.
But after a winning try for Worcester from Tom Birch, making the final score 10-7 to the West Midlands city side, Adam said: “It was just a shame about the result after what was a close game throughout.
“I was surprised by how well we fronted up to them in the scrums, where we were strong throughout, and we weren’t physically dominated by them in the game at all.
“We’ve got a tendency to start slowly in games and then realise that we need to start playing.
“The times when Worcester scored were through lack of concentration on our part, but the try from JJ Faulkner was a well-worked move.
“But we couldn’t really create any opportunities against a strong Worcester side.”
William, an epee fencer for just three years, has much more of a cushion to fall back on out of the three students, given his rapid progress in the sport as a member of Oundle, Peterborough and Stamford Epee Club.
This year, William came second in the Eastern Region qualifier for the British Youth Fencing Championships in Sheffield where he went on to come 32nd out of 53 entrants in the under-14 boys’ epee class.
“I went to watch fencing at the London 2012 Olympics and quite liked the look of it,” William said.
“Then my dad saw an advert somewhere about joining a fencing club, I went along and things have gone on from there.”
Just six weeks after the Midland Regional Plate semi-final blow, Adam and his Spalding under-17 team-mates were in Sleaford for the Lincolnshire Under-17 Cup final against Lincoln.
Adam said: “Lincoln are a good, very physical side but in the past, we’d had the better of the results over them.
“In training for the final, we’d worked on being clinical in the back line where we had some absolute fliers.”
But when it mattered, Spalding under-17s were bitterly disappointing in a 12-0 loss to Lincoln whose forwards and backs made sure Adam and his team-mates had little or no chance to shine.
Adam said: “I found it so hard because we couldn’t really get in the game at any point and we hardly had any possession.
“I had a bit of an opening just before half-time when we recycled the ball and I nearly got through to score.
“But Lincoln built their game plan around not kicking the ball much, while we didn’t get low enough in our tackling and we didn’t hit them early enough.
“If we’d had a bit more possession and width, we’d probably have broken through and it’s a shame we didn’t come away with the result.
“I thought we had a really good chance of winning but hopefully next season, we can put it right.”
Of course, Adam, William and Brendan have all experienced mountain-top moments in the fledgling sporting careers.
Brendan was a member of the City of Peterborough under-16 side that captured both the Cambridgeshire and East indoor club titles in 2013, a year after scoring six times for the under-14s when they won the Beeston seven-a-side tournament for the first time since 1990.
Jane Wilson, chairman of City of Peterborough Hockey Club, said: “From a club perspective, Brendan is one of a crop of talented young players who have grown up through our league sides over the past three or four years.
“His (GCSE) studies didn’t allow him to play as much age group hockey this season as he has done previously, but we hope Brendan will be fully available again next season.
“His confidence and versatility have helped him compete comfortably alongside much older players and he was part of our 2nd XI all season where he performed very successfully.
“As a club, we always endeavour to play our juniors as high up the teams as we can, allowing them to develop alongside our senior players, and it was evident from an early age that Brendan would be one who would benefit from this policy.
“He has not let us or his coaches down in that respect and we look forward to his continued development.”
For William, fencing highlights so far have included an invitation to represent England at the 38th International Championships in Poland three months ago following gold medals at both the Eastern Region and Cambridgeshire Fencing Championships last year.
Chris Hauser, founder and head coach at Oundle, Peterborough and Stamford Epee Club, said: “William has been developing very quickly since he started his fencing career at the Oundle, Peterborough & Stamford Epee Club and his selection for England was a deserved reward for the effort he has put in.
“We will be looking forward to working with him and the many other international fencers at the club to develop them further for the near and long-term future.”
Similarly, Adam has enjoyed some highs such as helping Bourne Grammar School to the County Sevens Plate Final and a trial for the England Counties under-18 team which he described as a “fantastic experience playing at this level, with team-mates a year older”.
Simon Faulkner, head coach of Spalding’s under-17 team, said: “Adam is an enthusiastic, committed and integral part of the Spalding team.
“He is gaining experience through playing at a higher level and with that experience, he can bring further benefits for Spalding.
“It is good to see that despite his size, Adam is not being overlooked by selectors who recognise his ability, excellent pace, good handling skills and fearless tackling, especially of players bigger than him.”
Brendan Andrews was always destined to follow in his father Shayne’s footsteps with a life on the hockey pitch.
“I started learning hockey before I could even walk, using a wooden spoon and a golf ball when I was in a pushchair.
“I was basically made to watch hockey, but I started playing hockey properly at the age of three.
“When I was at primary school, I got into Peterborough United Football Club’s junior set-up but I never really enjoyed it.
“I also did cross-country and go into a national final, but hockey was always going to be the sport I’d make most progress in.
“Originally, I started out as a goalkeeper which is about how quickly you can react to things but then I moved on to be an outfield player.
“To get my skills going, I used to get a cardboard loo roll and work on controlling the hockey stick.
“Over time, I was training four or five times a week which was such a good feeling because when you progress in a sport, there’s always someone who can tell you about how you’re doing.”
Watching Adam’s development as a rugby player, it seems hard to believe that his enjoyment of sport only came with time.
“I was born in Chicago, USA, and moved to the UK when I was three,” Adam said.
“When I was younger, I wasn’t into sports until I came over to the UK and played a bit of football up until I was 12 or 13.
“I also played cricket until I was introduced to rugby in Year 4 at Witham Hall School where I somehow managed to get into the A team, playing on the wing.
“Gradually, I improved and moved to Stamford Rugby Club where I played second row, running around and tackling people.
“I then moved to Bourne RFC where I also played my first year of county rugby for Lincolnshire, playing at outside centre which was when I knew I could play proper rugby.
“It was a decent standard of rugby that I was playing, NLD (Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire), then the Leicester Tigers Development Programme came along which allowed to play some good rugby.
“But the standard of that league wasn’t quite up to that of representative (NLD) at a time when I wanted to go on with my rugby.
“At the same time, that’s when I had to decide between rugby and football, choosing rugby which has turned out alright.”
William Ferguson has worked out the peculiarities of epee fencing, as opposed to foil and sabre competition which both work on a “right of way” principle where only a single hit can be scored at any one time.
“For fencers, the Olympics are everything to those in the international squad.
“But I’d probably not want to be a full-time, elite fencer, because I’d want to coach and bring other people into the sport instead.
“A good fencer needs a strong arm because if you can’t move the epee around, your opponent will take theirs and hit you.
“Fencers also need good stamina and the physical ability to attack and move for a long time.”
Outlining his own future, Brendan said: “I’ve recently finished my county hockey trial and I’m going for the Junior Regional Performance Centre that England Hockey runs.
“If that goes well, I’d then aim for the High Performance Assessment Camp to get into the England team.
“But because hockey isn’t a professional sport, I’d have to get a job and use hockey as hobby, while hoping to play for a Premier League side.”
Meanwhile, Adam said: “I have a trial for Nottingham in the summer and I’m also looking to play rugby at university.
“After that, I want to play for the Army or Navy, although I’m not looking at rugby as a profession.”
All three students are united on one thing, though, the value of belonging to a school where sporting success is almost as prized as academic excellence.
Adam said: “It’s testament to the school that we’re all playing sport at the level we are, but not getting ahead of ourselves.
“We’re keeping all our options open and the school does well in developing a student athlete.
“The school does a really good job to help us, whatever our sport, all the way through the educational system.
“That includes academically if sport isn’t the area we’d want to choose for ourselves in the long term.”