267 Games from (Old) National League 2 to RFU Championship and still going

Dave Jackson has been playing rugby for Nottingham from their old National League 2 days.

My 267th appearance for Nottingham last weekend will not be a game that sticks in my mind for long.

Being beaten at home by Rotherham was not the best way to mark a landmark appearance for the club.

I don’t really think about landmarks too much but becoming the club’s most capped player, taking over from my good mate, Craig Hammond, was something I was very proud of.

Not only that, but it was great to get back playing after missing much of last season with a shoulder injury and then being sidelined through pre-season with a niggle.

So much has changed since I began at the club in 1999.

Back then, we were in the old National League 2 (nowadays National League 1) and trained on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 7pm and 8.30pm.

But we had a good side and a number of youngsters, like Neil Fowkes for example, who were pushing for recognition in the England Under-19s set-up.

For a side in National 2, that was quite some achievement.

When were trained twice a week for an hour and half, there were no strength and conditioning coaches and weights were optional.

I enjoyed the “optional” part of that arrangement and played my first fixture weighing 10-and-a-half stone.

That first game was our second game of the season.

I vividly remember getting out on the pitch and thinking: “God, these guys are big!”

My size limitations were quickly made blatantly obvious when I went to tackle a forward and not only got knocked back but was simultaneously forced into a backwards ‘roly-poly’ such was the force of the hit on my small frame!

It suddenly dawned on me that I had better start making some visits to the weights room.

When I first got in there, I remember struggling with the bar – and that was without any extra weights on it! It was only 20kgs.

I put some weight on at last but I still tried to avoid the forwards which, in those days, were proper old school forwards.

They had big bellies and usually drank before and after a game.

The transition from a small club to one that is regularly in the top five of the Championship now was slow at first.

But as we began to get strength and conditioning coaches in and the attitude changed, we quickly grew.

Around four or five years ago, we had a full-time squad and are now well established in the Championship.

Hopefully, we can keep on improving and force our way further up the rugby ladder because we have made big strides in the last 13 years while I have been at the club.

With Martin Haag now in charge, we have a coach with Premiership experience and mentality and hopefully we can make that huge step up to the Premiership in the near future.

Will I still be around when that happens?

I really hope so.


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