We love a good game of rugby, especially if we're watching in a warm pub with cheap beer. The pub we find ourselves in today is suitably warm, if not especially cheap, but we are not here to watch rugby.
We've sponsored a player for our local rugby team - Banbury RUFC - and today we're meeting our new sponsee: Dan Brady, 24, winger for Banbury's 1st XV. He's also one of the club’s top performers.
A lifelong rugby obsessive, Dan has had notable successes in his rugby career, despite minor injuries and a brush with Covid, and has been marked as ‘one to watch’ by people who know more about rugby than we do.
Noted for his gazelle-like pace on the wing, Dan has played his part in earning the Banbury Bulls a league promotion to Regional 1 South Central, much to the delight of the club's loyal and vocal supporters.
Over several pints, in a pub near Dan’s home in the picturesque North Oxfordshire village of Deddington, we talk career highs, personal lows, and bodily fluids ♣︎
Let’s start at the beginning. Have you always wanted to play rugby?
Absolutely! I started playing at secondary school in PE lessons. From day one, I just really enjoyed it. I love the camaraderie and togetherness the sport brings. It’s second to none.
I joined Banbury Rugby when I was 12. My mates convinced me to try out. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to represent Oxfordshire County at every age group, including Seniors. I’ve played for Chinnor, I’ve represented South West England Under-18s, and the Scottish Exiles Under-18s.
What stands out as a particular highlight?
Winning the Bill Beaumont County Championship last summer. We were the underdogs in pretty much all of the games we played. To end up winning it and being presented with medals at Twickenham, the home of English rugby, was truly amazing.
So it's fair to say you’re enjoying being a Banbury Bull.
Absolutely! The atmosphere at the club is really good. And it’s my local team. We’ve enjoyed a lot of success, including four county championships, and last season we got promoted into Regional 1 South Central.
We’re still finding our feet in the league - we have a long way to go - but we are definitely going to make our way up the league table.
You play rugby union. For those who don't know, what’s the difference between rugby league and union.
In rugby union you have unlimited tackles, unless you make a mistake. In rugby league you have six tackles, then you must give the ball to the other team. Most teams also opt to kick on the fifth tackle. This makes it a faster paced game.
Clear as mud! Thank you. What’s your position?
I play on the wing. For all the non-rugby heads out there, the winger's the fast one who scores all the tries!
You move like greased lightning. What’s your training regimen?
I currently train two times a week with Banbury Rugby. Tuesdays are more contact work and working on aspects of the game we want to implement.
On Thursdays we focus more on run-throughs and the finer skills, such as our strike moves and how we want to play the game.
Outside of that, I try to train three or four times a week in the gym. For my gym programme, I’m doing hypertrophy training to make me gain size. All the exercises are about developing muscle.
You can’t beat early morning gym sessions followed by a big breakfast! Because I struggle to maintain my weight, or put on weight, I aim for proteins and carbs, and just try to eat as much as possible.
What’s your view of the current state of English rugby?
At this moment in time, it’s in a terrible place. Two teams recently folded: Worcester and, unfortunately, my boyhood team, Wasps.
The game isn’t being televised enough or pushed out on social media enough. That isn’t sustainable at all, which is a shame. It needs to reach a wider audience, in my opinion.
What effect did Covid have?
It was tough. With the lockdowns, I didn’t play any rugby for a year. When things were getting back to normal, I got Covid, and then long Covid. A bitter pill to swallow, but that’s sport. You have to stay strong and positive.
Losing rugby for a period has probably made me a better player. I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, so I’m looking forward to the challenge of this season.
Very philosophical. What advice would you give your younger self, just starting out?
Well, for anyone starting out in rugby, or any sport they want to be professional in, don’t forget to celebrate the victories. All the sacrifices you make are for those moments. Enjoy them.
I had a coach at school who was obsessed with fitness and didn’t really focus on any enjoyment of the game. I remember ringing up my dad saying I wanted to quit because I hated it that much.
Enjoying what you do is what life's about, for sure. What’s your rugby dream?
Just to play at the highest level I can. Hopefully I can do this with Banbury, playing my part in getting them to the top level they deserve to be at.
If it wasn’t rugby, would you, or could you, have picked another sport?
I started off playing football and bloody loved it. I never played at any decent level though. I still love football and I support Carlisle United. I love all sports really, especially boxing.
And what do you like doing when not playing rugby? How do you relax?
I’m very relaxed anyway. I love watching films and playing games. I’m really into the classics: Call of Duty and Pokémon. I read and I am currently trying to learn French. I’m also a keen angler. Fishing is very relaxing and calming. No better thrill than watching a float go under.
It's always good when a floater sinks. Rugger boys have a reputation for getting drunk and drinking each other’s bodily fluids. What’s that all about?
I think that reputation is exaggerated, on the whole. With any group of blokes things can get out of hand sometimes, but I feel like us rugby lads are generally a friendly bunch.
I cannot disclose how many pints of other people’s bodily fluids I have consumed, but I suspect it's a lot less than you seem to think!
Come on, what’s the most disgusting act you’ve witnessed? Tell us!
It's hard to think of anything. That kind of thing doesn't really happen anymore - at least not at Banbury. Rugby has changed.
I once saw a guy get crazy drunk, throw up in a bin bag, then climb inside it, for some reason; but, like I say, that's not usual. Sorry to disappoint you.
That was milder than we expected. Thanks so much for meeting us today, Dan.
No, big thanks to Ten of Clubs for sponsoring me for this season. Best affordable streetwear brand on the market! I’m loving my Blank Stare Tee.
And I want a cap. The wall art’s cool too, especially the skateboards. I just wish I could skate!
Cheers, dude. There'd be a job in our marketing department for you, if we had a marketing department... When’s your next match?
On the 3rd of December, at home to Sutton & Epsom. Everyone must come along. All entry is free to the club to watch the games. It’s a friendly atmosphere. All support is much appreciated.
We’ll definitely be there, supporting. And hopefully you’ll come and speak to us again.
Cheers guys. Absolutely! And if you give me a free cap, I’ll get a tattoo of your logo.
📸 Photography by Simon Grieve.
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