Swaffham rugby prospect heads Down Under
- Credit: Archant
WARREN GATLAND'S Lions are not the only British rugby players putting their reputations on the line in Australia this summer.
An 18-year-old prodigy from Swaffham Rugby Club flew out of Heathrow Airport this week to begin the greatest adventure of his young life.
Dereham teenager Joe Milligan will be honing the skills he has been developing at Swaffham by playing and training with powerhouse Sydney club Randwick.
'It's a great opportunity,' said his father Ian, who is Swaffham's chairman. 'Randwick is a huge club known as a breeding ground for Wallabies.
'They have produced 93 Australian international players, including David Campese, Kurtley Beale and George Gregan as well as having an excellent record of world class coaches with Bob Dwyer and Michael Cheika heading up the list of men in charge over the years.
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'Joe will be working in a hotel on Bondi Beach to pay his way and will be training and playing at the Coogee Oval under some of the greatest coaches in the game. I think that classifies as living the dream!'
Explaining how the opportunity came the former Northgate High School pupil's way, his dad added: 'It's through an Australian coach called Mike Penistone, who used to be based nearby and did some sessions for us. 'He said a few years ago that when Joe had finished at college he might see what he could find for him, but we thought it was just a kind thing to say and didn't expect anything to come from it.
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'But he rang us in January and said he was back in the area and offered to do another session with the boys. This time he asked if Joe fancied flying out.
'We never really imagined anything like this, but we know Mike wouldn't have made the offer if he didn't think Joe was good enough because his reputation is on the line as well.' Joe has been a permanent fixture in Swaffham's first team since turning 17 – mostly playing at full-back though his favoured position is fly-half
. He helped the club to win both Eastern Counties Division Two and the Norfolk Junior Cup last season.
He has played at Swaffham since he was four and a half years old and has been known as 'Sharky' since being given the nickname by another visiting overseas coach when he was nine.
Outside of Swaffham RUFC, Joe has studied at the Rugby Academy at Easton College and has represented Norfolk RFU in a number of age groups. He is also a qualified referee and has coaching qualifications which he hopes to utilise whilst he is in Sydney.