My first memories of rugby for me were watching my old man, Nathan Strong, play, whether that was Bridgend or Pontypridd. I can remember vividly watching Ponty v Neath in the Principality Stadium. James Hook was playing for Neath back then. Ponty came out on top and that is one game I do remember as a kid.
It’s difficult to say really, I have been told I always had a rugby ball in my hands and always remember Ponty or Bridgend but then at about nine, I switched to football. So I quit rugby for a while but came back to it when I was about 11 and from then it was always been rugby, rugby and rugby. I didn’t get into Schools or District sides, I was playing centre at the time, and I was told I wasn’t good enough and had to go away and work on my game. After that I got picked for the District for four games and then got picked for the Ospreys U16s. There was a game we played against Dunvant in the Under15’s Ospreys Cup semis and I will never forget it. We had a big win and that was a moment for me and one I look back on with real pride.
It has been huge for me as a rugby player, it has allowed me to train everyday and the skills it has given me and the understanding of the dedication needed to do this, with training early morning and then the day in college or working really teaches you what is required. All of that has been really worthwhile when you kick on to the senior squad and get to train at that level. It shows you the dedication, discipline and the hard work needed to get to this level. All of it prepares you for being in the environment now. Playing for Bridgend, as a Bridgend boy has been massive for me. It’s my hometown and to be able to represent them is something I am very proud of. I still love going back to play there, they boys there and the supporters there are great. Every chance I get to pull on the Bridgend jersey is a proud moment for myself and my family. My old man played there so there is a big family connection there.
My first memory of the Ospreys was when Gavin Henson was playing here. I remember having the jersey and Lee Byrne, who was from Bridgend, played for the team. I remember the first time they won their first title and it was just massive for everyone. Players like Tommy Bowe were just great to watch and that’s where the Ospreys want to be.
It’s just and education. You are constantly learning about the game and listening to them and watching them and seeing what they do and understanding why they do it. They are the best in the business and they have achieved everything in the game and they show you how hard you have to work to do anything in the game. Also, you see what kind of people they are and they always do the simple things like say hello and are willing to talk about the game. I never take for granted what a special place I’m in. I used to watch them on TV as a kid and now I am training with them everyday.
Having not played rugby for nearly two years, with Covid etc, I just want to play regularly. Whether that is with Bridgend or with the first team, I just know I need to play and to keep learning. Having played for the Ospreys in pre-season, I just want more of that. Toby has shown he will pick young players if they work and train hard, so we all know what we have to do and where we stand.