University of Gloucestershire student Callum Merrett has praised the university’s rugby league setup after securing a contract with semi-professional side Coventry Bears for this season.
The 21-year-old signed a deal with the League One club back in November after impressing in an open trial and has credited UOG’s former BUCS Premier South winning side for preparing him to step up a level.
“Joining the rugby league side was the best decision I made when coming to university.
“It allowed me to continue my development as a player as we play in the highest league in the south, so being able to be play with a team full of quality players gave me the chance to improve and develop.
“One of my teammates at university played for Coventry last year and suggested I go for the trial. So that’s how I got the chance there.”
He made his Bears debut in pre-season, coming up against Super League giants Leeds Rhinos.
That seems like quite a tall order for someone who has never strayed above university level before, but Merrett insists it was a good experience.
“It was a very big game for me as it was against the team I’ve followed for years, but what a privilege it was to play against them.
“I played okay considering it a new experience for me playing at that level but overall I think it was pretty standard performance.”
Alongside the university team, Merrett also turned out for the All Golds last season, winning the Harry Jepson Trophy last season.
🏉 The All Golds claim the 2018 Harry Jepson Trophy in Hemel, with Callum Merrett putting in a Man of the Match performance. 👏 pic.twitter.com/0iCHVcfqJP
— Rugby Football League (@TheRFL) September 9, 2018
The All Golds have also been a huge part of the youngster’s RL development but he says the step up to semi-professional level has been a big one.
“Playing for the All Golds was special to me because they have been my home club since I was 16.
“Moving to play semi-professional, though, is a big difference. The game at that level is so much more physical and fast paced. If you make a mistake in a game or in training then you know about it.
“Players and coaches help you develop and give feedback because everyone is there to win the league and everyone wants the best out of each other.
“I feel like I’ve improved as a player. Having to commit three times a week in pre-season and having three high level coaches at Coventry developed my skills massively.
“I listened to them and used their comments in training to progress and now feel better than I have ever done.”