OLLIE DAWE did not have too many expectations when he turned up to train with Plymouth Albion in the summer, having only turned 18 a few months earlier.
But the youngster has become Albion’s first choice loose-head prop, starting seven of their opening eight National One matches.
Dawe believes joining Plymouth and working with his namesake Graham Dawe was the best thing he could have done for his career, which in the summer was at a crossroads after surprisingly not getting offered a deal with Exeter Chiefs.
“When I first came down I just thought I would train as hard as I could and just see if I could get in the side,” said the teenager.
“It is quite rare for an 18-year-old prop to be playing National One. It is good to have the backing of Graham.
“Graham has been brilliant. He loves the scrums and his pointers are great.”
The England Under-18 international admitted the first few National One games were a bit of an eye opener for him and many of Albion’s other young players, but Dawe does feel he has found his feet now.
“Coming from academy stuff into men’s rugby has been quite a step up,” said Dawe. “The players are bigger and the scrums are heavier. The first few games was about managing that, but now I think you can see from our performances we have become quite dominant in that area.”
Dawe, one of six teenagers to have made an Albion match-day squad this season, believes he is progressing his development faster by playing regular men’s rugby than he would have done at an academy.
“Coming here (to Albion) is a lesson every week,” he said. “There are more things I learn training here and playing with the boys on a Saturday than I would playing academy games.
“In this league I do come up against some experienced props and they look at me and you can see they’re thinking ‘you’re quite young’. But it’s about trying to get the upper hand. They try some funny things, but that’s life.”
Devonian Dawe came through Exmouth’s junior ranks.
He said: “I started playing rugby at Exmouth at about 11 or 12. I went through Exmouth and then went to school at Bicton when I was 16 and I got in the Chiefs’ academy. I went through the academy and then came down here.
“I actually started as a number eight, but I was a bit big to get around the pitch, so I became a prop and I now love the position I play.”
Albion are set to host Exmouth A in a development match on Tuesday, December 8 at Brickfields (7.30pm).