RUGBY LEAGUE: Cirencester's James Fisher to make his professional debut with All Golds
JAMES FISHER grew up playing rugby alongside Gloucester and England star Henry Trinder at Cirencester RFC, Kingshill School and Hartpury College – now he has earned his own first professional contract . . . in rugby league.
Fisher, 24, has been the top try scorer in Cirencester’s first XV for the past five seasons but he has switched codes in order to fulfil his dream of a career in professional sport.
Fisher has signed for the University of Gloucestershire All Golds, who play in the tier below Super League in the Kingstone Press Championship One. He will make his debut away at York City Knights next Sunday.
Before that he plays a pre-season friendly this afternoon on Filton’s 4G pitch and will roared on by family and friends from Cirencester RFC who are all delighted at his success.
“I played seven or eight games for Old Pats last summer – my first season in rugby league – and we won the West of England Championship beating Oxford Cavaliers 96-12 in the grand final when I scored four tries,” said Fisher.
“At the start of this union season, I switched from Ciren to Old Pats for about five weeks because of their strong links with the All Golds side, in a bid to raise my profile for rugby league.
“In January I was invited for a trial at Filton and it seemed to go well but Mike Stewart (Scottish international and All Golds captain) then went away on holiday and I was left on tenterhooks not knowing whether I had done enough to earn a contract.
“When the positive news came through it was just surreal and I am dead excited to get started.”
Fisher has already received a message of congratulations from Trinder, with whom he used to room in his second year at Hartpury.
“I also bumped into Henry and some of the other Gloucester rugby boys at Nandos in Cheltenham and he was delighted about my news,” said James.
Fisher, who started playing his rugby at Cirencester RFC at the age of eight, has been a key player for the firsts over a number of seasons, not only as principal try scorer but also as kicker.
He holds the club record for the number of successful conversions in a game (12 from 12) and has a welcome knack of producing the goods under pressure.
Dean Hammett, the first XV coach, has guided James and his talented younger brother Luke (currently sidelined with injury) through from the Colts side “I think Matson especially must be sick of the sight of James,” said Hammett. “I remember at least two occasions when he won the game against them with the last play of the game, one a drop goal and one a penalty.”
Fisher also pulled off the same stunt playing for Old Pats against Avonmouth Old Boys this season, when slotting a last-minute kick from 63 metres.
“It is fantastic news and we are all delighted for James,” said Hammett. “This is a real family club and we hope he’ll do well.
“He’s been very versatile for me playing 10, 13, full back and wing. He’s a strong ball carrier with real pace. The extra training he is doing now can only make him a better player.
“And he ended his Ciren career with a win. We were short on numbers and he came off the bench last Saturday in the 16-12 win over Bristol Harlequins.”
Fisher, himself, is convinced the league code will suit his game.
“With less players and the six-tackle rule there are more gaps in rugby league and that will allow me to exploit my speed in more one-on-one situations,” he said.
“Of course, I still very new to it and am learning all the time.
“With the training being in the evenings and the games being on a Sunday it also fits in better with my job.
“I am coming to the end of my apprenticeship with Stroud Alarms in Nailsworth which sometimes involves Saturday working so that meant I was not always available for Ciren games.”
Fisher may be just eight days away from his full professional rugby league debut but he is already targeting international honours.
“I am half-Scottish and my next great ambition is to get an international cap,” said Fisher.
“I have made it known that I am going down the Scottish rather than the English route in an attempt to fulfil that dream, too.”