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Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter writes

Posted Friday, January 19th 2018

In-Depth: Opportunity knocks for Hawkins as off-field roles ease injury strain

After an impressive pre-season campaign, including appearances against Harlequins, Bath and Scarlets, Academy lock, John Hawkins’ progress was curtailed by a knee injury that ruled him out for the season.

But that hasn’t prevented him from contributing to the environment, with the 22-year-old taking up various roles across the club landscape.

“The main thing has been my coaching,” said Hawkins. “I’ve done my Level Two qualification and I’ve been helping Iro (Mark Irish) and Beanie (Sean Marsden) with the U18s, so I’m doing that most weeks and watching them train.

“I’m enjoying learning from two really top coaches and picking up pointers from them. It gives me a broader understanding of everything on the pitch, rather than just focusing on myself. I understand more about the roles of the backs and front row, and I understand the bigger team picture a lot better now, because I have to focus on everything.

“But it’s also helped me to keep busy during my rehabilitation period. Pat and the coaches always talk about using your time, when injured, to improve other areas of your game, and that’s exactly what my work with U18s has allowed me to do.

Hawkins carries the ball into contact during A League clash against Saracens Storm at Allianz Park (JMP UK).

“When I was younger, I played a lot of tennis and I was a tennis coach, so I always wanted to do some sort of coaching and this injury has given me a good opportunity to pursue it earlier in my career.”

Coaching hasn’t been Hawkins’ only off-field contribution during his injury lay-off - the former Stowe School captain was also part of a Bristol Rugby group invited to Chengdu, China to support the inaugural British Sports Festival in October.

Hawkins, alongside representatives from Bristol Sport Foundation and Bristol Ladies Rugby, visited a number of schools during the visit, delivering rugby coaching sessions for students and teachers and helping to raise the profile of rugby in Asia ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup – and the lock admits the trip was a ‘surreal’ experience.

“We were promoting not only Bristol Sport, but rugby in general in the Chengdu province,” said Hawkins.

"I'm over the moon to sign for another year and looking forward to seeing what the future holds here, it's an exciting time."

John Hawkins

“We went and saw loads of schools, did some coaching and attended a rugby festival they had put on for us, so they had 12 or 13 teams all playing, and it was incredible.

“It was so eye-opening to see the enthusiasm that they have for the game and how much it’s progressing in China. It was so much fun, and I’d love to go back there some time.”

Hawkins’ work away from rugby has proved a welcome distraction, but there has been no escaping the frustration of long-term injury. That said, the Academy youngster’s positive outlook is a refreshing one, and he says he’s delighted to extend his stay in BS3.

“I’m over the moon to sign for another year and looking forward to seeing what the future holds here, it’s an exciting time,” he said.

“It’s been tough. Pre-season was going really well and then the season was over before it started for me, with the knee injury. But it gave me a chance to work on other aspects of myself, try to develop as a person rather than solely focusing on rugby.

“I don’t want to start bringing other boys down throughout the club, especially considering how well they’re doing with 13 wins from 13 in the league. I don’t want to start sapping because of my injury.

“I’ve still got a long way to go and I know I’m progressing and improving, so I’ve got to keep positive."

Hawkins is aiming to fit for the beginning of pre-season, ready and ‘firing on all cylinders’ to make his mark at the club. The road to recovery has been a long one, but the Academy lock says he’s out to make up for lost time.

“My first aim to get the knee right and then make a big impression in pre-season training,” he said.

“I need to make sure I’m firing on all cylinders when I get back. I want to be breaking into the first team, I want to be playing at the highest level, playing for Pat, and making an impact at that level.

“But first things first, I need to get fit, get pre-season out of the way and go from there.”

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