Northampton Saints Academy come marching in for former Haverhill Rugby Club's Jake Barry
It all began as a way to deal with a playground bully, but now 15-year-old Jake Barry is eyeing up a place in the big leagues as he joins Northampton Saints academy.
The Castle Manor Academy pupil said it is ‘amazing’ to be offered a place in the Gallagher Premiership team’s youth ranks and take a major step in his rugby development.
He played his first game for the Saints academy in a recent trip to Saracen’s Allianz Park, with the team’s drawing 35-35.
“It’s just amazing,” the versatile forward, who can play at number eight or in the front row, said. “It’s my dream to play for the Saints and England one day.
“It feels a little unreal at the moment, it’s just a brilliant feeling. I don’t think I expected this to happen when I started playing.”
But it has not always been easy sailing for the young man, with his success so far a result of a lot of hard work and mental resilience.
He said he started playing at Haverhill Rugby Club to deal with the impact of being bullied at school for his weight, and quickly found he had a talent – and passion – for the game.
A family tragedy in 2015, not long after Jake had started to play, had a ‘massive impact’ on the promising player and sparked a need and determination to achieve.
“I lost my younger brother and it had a really big effect on me,” he said. “It made me realise what I had and to make the most of it.
“It’s been a big factor in getting me this far, I think half of the game is about being in the right mental space alongside hard work and determination, and I have found I have a lot of drive since then.
“I had a really hard time when I was younger and I really lacked confidence, and I was bullied for my weight,” he added.
“So it was all about learning that I wasn’t made of glass, but I found I really enjoyed it and then it helped me get through a really hard time.
“I was then offered a place at Cambridge at 12 and played for their U13s, which was amazing and it’s just gone from there.”
Barry has been involved with the Saints’ player development pathway with Cambridge, and has progressed through the DPP (Developing Player Programme) and PDG (Player Development Group) programmes.
“I’ve sort of been on their radar for a little while,” he explained. “But it’s brilliant to get the offer.
“My family are really proud.”
Dad Mark echoed that as he said: “I’m really pleased, he’s had a tough time of it but hasn’t let it get him down.
“He’s worked hard and fully deserves it.”
Jake will be training with the Saints on Monday nights, as well as staying with Cambridge RUFC, but is also on the lookout for a scholarship to a rugby school to continue with his development.
More by this authorHannah Dolman