Me & my blue: Josh Halstead

When most of us think of rugby at Oxford our minds normally stray to thoughts of friends returning to college caked in mud after a rainy afternoon, or possibly to the heady heights of the titans who take on Cambridge at Twickenham. However, this is just Rugby Union. Unbeknownst to most there is a whole other game of rugby played in Oxford, Rugby League.

Josh first played rugby league at the age of 7, but did not pursue it in any serious way trying out many more sports before again taking it up properly aged 14. Age 14 he started playing for his local club in Preston, the Leyland Warriors. He considered himself to be an average club player for the first few years that he played until in the summer of 2008 he decided to take it more seriously.

He was soon selected to play for Great Britain Under 18s. I asked him what he possibly could have done to change from an average player to representing our islands, and his only response was to shake his head and say ‘It was tough’.

When in the GB squad he was training five hours on Saturday with them, and then also playing on Sundays for his club and Wednesdays for his 6th form college, and doing personal training every day in between. Whilst with GB, Josh played alongside players from top division teams compared to his relatively unknown club.

Upon arrival in Oxford Josh was tempted to join the Union team as Union is far more dominant in the South of England. However, he says, he found that the set up within the Rugby League club was very professional, mainly due to the coach, Dan Garbutt, and so decided to stick with the sport he preferred.

Josh’s highlights from the year include beating St Mary’s London, a team ranked considerably above Oxford.

Another highlight is the tour to Portugal over the Christmas vacation, as they had their Varsity match in Hilary. The team was there for just under a week, training three times a day, and Josh felt that this shared suffering really brought the team together in preparation for their term of training before facing Cambridge.

Winning this year’s Varsity, as with most university sportsmen, was the highlight of the year. Leading up to the game Oxford felt confident, knowing that they had a more talented side, and even when three tries down in the 1st half, Oxford kept their composure going on to win the game 32-22.

With the varsity over Josh volunteered, along with team-mate Paul O’Connor, to train a team of girls to play Cambridge in the first ever Varsity women’s Rugby League game. The match is happening this Saturday.

As only a fresher, Josh still has two more years with the club and was convinced that in next year’s Varsity “we’re going to come back and do even better”.