A well-built, handsome Bristolian sits before me. His muscular arms and broad physique give little away to his chosen course – computing. I think we could all be forgiven for stereotyping an IT classroom to be full with mainly glasses wearing slightly svelte gentlemen rather than big, burly pirate sounding ones like the cheekily grinning Joseph Webb I have in front of me. But although computing is his chosen career, ‘Webby’ as he likes to be known has a true passion in his life – rugby.
“I’ve always loved the game” he beams, “it was the brutality of it that I loved, the discipline”. He began playing at the age of 12 when it was played in PE at his secondary school where his love for it lead him to join his local team, Chew Valley back in his home town of Stowey, Bristol. He has created a foundation of not only a great way of getting fit, but also a vast friendship network of his fellow team mates who look out for each other a great deal on the pitch…and it seems also in the pub! “Drinking is a massive part of it and not at all why I love it so much!” His half smile insists I’m sure of more than a bit of sarcasm. “We play a match then drink to celebrate or to drown our sorrows, either way it’s nice to have the social side to the game as well as to get to play it”.
What’s so interesting about a 21 year old boy playing rugby I hear you cry? Well, Joe computes during the week, but then goes on to play rugby every weekend…back at home. Despite studying at The University of Gloucestershire, he sacrifices his student life every Friday to Sunday and takes the 50 minute train back to normality and his beloved sport. This has been a routine of Joe’s since he started his course last year, “I never planned on going home so often but I just missed the team so much and so decided it was worth it”. To me he seems as though he has practised this speech before. It appears only natural that his peers would question this decision and so he has now fine-tuned his answer. “People have a lot to say about me missing out but I don’t feel that I do at all”, he laughs as though this would be a ridiculous remark. He doesn’t seem to be phased by the criticism at all, “I’m proud to have a club that wants me back every week, a lot of people would do anything for that”.
Being a student myself it occurs to me that my parents would not be impressed by me turning up on their doorstep three days out of every week. Joe’s family it seems have a different view, “It’s lovely to know that he has such a strong connection to his home” his Dad Steve exclaims to me, “I enjoy watching him play and it’s nice to still be able to do that despite him moving away”. In some people’s opinion only being somewhere four days out of every seven doesn’t really argue the fact that you live there, but it seems that Joe is now so used to it he barely notices, “I look forward to my weekends of rugby and my other days of going out and being a normal student, I get the best of both worlds!”.
Despite perhaps being an unconventional university student in regards to city hopping in the name of sport, Joe seems to really take it in his stride. His constant ear to ear smile shows this to anyone who would want to know, “I know it may seem a bit over the top to some, but to me rugby is my first passion and so without it I would resent university for taking that away”. The University team to him just wasn’t the same as what he had already built with his Chew Valley team mates, “I tried it for a week but knew straight away that I wanted to stay loyal to the team that had made me the player I am today”. His love of the sport shines through in every word that he says, “Rugby is what I love to do and makes me so happy, I’d never give it up for a second” and with that said through such a broad smile, I hope he never does.