First Year Salford Red Devils Academy Student Makes Historic First Team Debut
Posted on 4th February 2019 at 15:09
Connor Aspey started attending our Academy study programme with Salford Red Devils Foundation in September last year and after impressing from the beginning, Head Coach Ian Watson offered him the opportunity to train with the first team. Connor rapidly progressed to signing a one-month trial with the team, which subsequently resulted in 16 year-old Connor becoming the youngest player in history to debut for Salford Red Devils when he was selected to play against Swinton Lions in a pre-season game last month.
First of all a massive congratulations on your outstanding debut! How did that come about and what did it feel like to play for Salford Red Devils RLFC?
Thank you! Well just as Pre-season started I was approached by the First Team's Head coach Ian Watson with the opportunity to start training with them and then towards the end of pre-season they wanted to offer me a step up from just training with them, and that was when I signed the one-month trial contract. Then the week before the Swinton Game they sat me down and told me they were giving me the opportunity to play in the match with the first team, which I wasn’t expecting! It was really good to make my debut; particularly against Swinton, as they are a championship team, so it was a great experience for me!
How did you handle the pressure and the nerves of making your debut so young? It's a big step up!
I was very nervous before going onto the pitch but I tried to approach it as though it was a game in the park, as though I was messing around with my friends as opposed to thinking ‘my god this is a Super League team here’; so it was quite a steady approach. I was talking to Robbie (Robert Lui) and Jackson (Hastings) in the sidelines before I went on and they basically said what I was thinking; to take it as a training match and don’t think about it too much or try to overplay and impress, so when I got out there I just focused on the basic's and played as I normally would. I ended up being on the pitch for around 20 minutes overall.
How are you finding training with the first team? Is it a big step up from training with the Academy in terms of the physical demands and the fitness?
Yes, when I first started it was a big step up from training with the Foundation team, as with them it was twice a week. Whereas, training with the first team can be 4, 5, sometimes 6 times a week, and it is a lot tougher as there has been a lot more running, and increasing weight sizes in the gym to build my strength.
What was your first reaction on finding out you had been selected to play in the Swinton match?
I texted my Dad straight away and he was very proud, and then I let my Mum and my Nan know. Then when I went back into the classroom I told all of the Boys and they were very happy for me.
What made you choose to attend Salford Red Devils Academy?
It was the Rugby; I wanted to play for a Super League team. Also the Education alongside the Rugby gave it a nice balance and it felt quite compatible, particularly, as unlike other colleges the Rugby and the education are in the same place and there is no travel between different sites, which makes it a lot easier.
It's still early days but what are your plans for the future?
Definitely playing Rugby, but if not then I would pursue a career still within Sports, maybe in Physiotherapy or something. I think that is why the Education at the Academy is so important as I will always have that to fall back on, it keeps my options open.
The size of the crowd must have been fairly daunting as well?
Well obviously the size of the crowd was very different to what I am used to, I'm normally used to maybe 30-40 people on the side-lines so compared to almost two thousand people in a stadium it’s a big difference! However, I tired not to think about it and I kept calm and approached the game as I normally would.
We saw a lot of positive reaction on social media from fans towards your debut, how did that feel?
It was overwhelming, I didn’t expect people to take to me so much and I feel that I still have a lot to show in the field, as it was my first game and I only stuck to the basics of what I know so I definitely think I have a lot more to offer. But I really appreciate all of the support that I have had from all of the fans and everyone else.
Do you know if you will feature in any upcoming games?
No, not yet. We’ve got the game against Huddersfield on Friday but I don’t think that I have been selected for the side, I think with me being 16 they think I am still fairly young and I have yet to mature to the size of a fully grown, adult professional Rugby player. Therefore, I think the next steps for me are to maybe go on loan to a Championship side and get some good minutes in there, but still staying with Salford and training full-time with them in the week. Then at the weekend with a Championship side I can train and gain my experience with them and build towards making more appearances for Salford.
Passionate about Rugby and looking to further your Education in Sports?
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If you would like more information on joining Salford Red Devils Academy for September 2019 please visit our Academy page or contact:
T: 0161 786 1591
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