The impressive progress made by Nathan Decalmer and Ben Pitt in the opening weeks of the new season is clear proof that Bournville’s scouting network is effective and that Avery Fields is a place where aspiring young players can develop and improve.

Last season wing Decalmer was playing for Telford Hornets in Counties One Midlands West (North) – three divisions below Bournville in the league pyramid – and scrum-half Pitt for Walsall in Regional Two West Midlands.

Both had been on the radar of Bournville’s Director of Rugby Paul Sumner who offered them the chance to play National Leagues rugby for the first time, an opportunity both have grasped.

Decalmer has been an ever-present so far this season, impressing with his pace and elusive running, while Pitt made his first start in the victory over Dudley Kingswinford two weeks ago and he also played in the narrow loss at Old Redcliffians seven days later.

“With Nathan we got the heads-up that there was a really good winger playing for North Midlands Under-20s so we went down and had a look at him,” Sumner said.

“We then brought him to the club, took him on a tour and got him involved ASAP.

“Ben is someone that had been on our radar for a couple of years. We felt that last year wasn’t the right time for him to come over but I went to watch him play for Walsall against Burton in a midweek cup match, spoke to him after and got him to come down and have a look around.

“There is a lot of talent down the leagues. It’s a real breeding ground. In the past players came through junior clubs but now people tend to look just at academies.

“But there needs to be a pathway for player at junior clubs and that’s something that we have done well at Bournville for some time now.

“Ideally, we get the young ones from levels seven, eight and nine and we send them on in a couple of years to go even higher if they are capable.

“But it works both ways. Players do leave us and go back to the clubs they joined us from. Mikey Ho and Steve Handy have gone back to Old Saltleians from us this year.

“Steve joined Bournville at the same time as me 13 years ago, he made more than 100 appearances for us and he’s gone back to Old Salts to finish were he started.

“We have picked up a few players from Coventry’s academy but the real satisfaction comes from picking up the little diamonds like Nathan and Ben who have never played higher than level seven and eight.”

To help him discover those diamonds Sumner has a network of scouts whose judgment he trusts.

“There are a few people who I keep in touch with who tip us off when they see someone,” he said.

“I always go and watch all of the North Midlands Under-20s matches to try to spot the next ones coming up.

“There are coaches and other DoRs who will talk about loans throughout the year and they often recognise that they have a player who is good enough to go higher. It’s a well-worked machine.

“The players are very good as well. The first time we had a look at Ben Pitt three years ago was through Ethan Walker who mentioned there was a good scrum-half at Walsall.

“It’s the best way to recruit people if they know someone who is already here and we’ve done that pretty successfully as well.”

Sumner’s scouting network may be working effectively but he is also a believer in rugby’s oldest recruitment tool which is players joining Bournville because they want to play for a club on the up and improve themselves.

Not all of the new faces at Avery Fields this season will feature in the first XV which makes the role of the Blues – the second XV – in playing regular competitive rugby even more important.

“Recently we had a lad from Broadstreet who played with Chris Idehen who joined us during the summer,” Sumner said.

“They were talking about Bournville and he turned up to training last week and signed up with us.

“We have had more walk-ups this year than we have ever had which goes to show that people want to come and have a crack at National Leagues rugby.

“Having a second team playing regularly is also important. We are not just recruiting first teamers. We have probably got seven or eight players who played in the second team last week who weren’t here last season.

“They are not necessarily ambitious and want to play first team rugby but they want to be part of a bigger club and be in a good place to get better.

“We probably almost get more joy out of those players coming to us and who see the value in playing for the club than going out and having to find new players.”


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