WSA is proud to announce that Hugo Austin, our Digital Marketing Executive, has recently been named the new Captain of Towcestrians RFC’s 2XV. In today’s blog, Hugo gives some insight into his sporting background and explains the parallels of striving to do the best possible in the workplace and on the pitch…
I started playing rugby at five years old when my Dad, a keen rugby player, took my older brother and I to our local one Sunday morning. Since then, it has become a second home. I have spent pretty much every Autumn, Winter and early Spring morning at the rugby club for the last 22 years.
I play in the 2nd-row position, think tall and slow but quite heavy. My running style has been likened to that of a baby giraffe, excited but likely to trip on his own feet and fall flat on his face. For those that don’t know rugby, I’m the one that they lift to get the ball in a line out.
A generational sport
Having played for Tows for so long, most of my good mates are from the club – I spend an awful lot of time up there! My Dad, Mark Austin, has been heavily involved in the committee and even had a stint as Chairman, which has led to me joining the committee. He has had a huge influence on my rugby from the start to present, so if there is anyone to remember to name-drop or thank in this article, it is him.
My father also played rugby from the age of 13, playing for his school in Truro, Cornwall, and then going on to Captain his county at the age-group level. He then joined the military and during his time serving in the Gurkhas, he managed to play rugby for and captain various teams; all whilst serving in places like Northern Ireland and Hong Kong. Notably, he managed to pick up 6 caps for the Hong Kong International team.
My older brother, Horatio Austin, joined Towcestrians at the same time as me and in 2015 he followed in our father’s footsteps by joining the British Army, specifically the Royal Corps of Signals. He has played many times for his regiment and has also featured for the British Army U23’s squad (narrowly missed out on the first team when he was instead deployed in Afghanistan). Dad always said that he would stop playing when he takes to the pitch with both of his sons at the same time, which we did on Tour in Rouen in France – he was 50 years old!
School of hard knocks
I have also played Rugby for my schools growing up, but I don’t think I learned how to use my size on the pitch until I went to University in Manchester. I played for Manchester Metropolitan University for two seasons, winning x2 Varsity Cups and then played for and captained the Manchester and Salford Officers Training Corps for my final two years of uni. After finishing university in 2019, I decided to stay in Manchester and played for Eccles RFC.
Northern rugby is slightly different to playing in the south or in the midlands because the players tend to play Rugby League in the summer and Rugby Union in the winter, so defences are more physical and referees more lenient on high tackles. My time at Eccles came to an end in October 2021 as I sustained a broken fibula and ankle dislocation – which meant that I would not play rugby again for 12 months, after I had returned home.
Overcoming challenging obstacles
Over the last few years and during the COVID pandemic, rugby has taken a bit of a kicking, particularly in England. Less people have signed up for memberships since that time – in 2016 there were 260,000 members of rugby clubs across the nation, but by the 2022 season, this had dropped significantly to 95,000. Just like many businesses, the challenge now is rebuilding and growth.
As a result, I think captains’ roles at all clubs have changed from mainly focusing on leading their teams out on the field, to advertising and appealing to new joiners – creating an attractive playing environment and building a team. So, first and foremost I want to help create a fun and competitive atmosphere for people of any skill level to come and try out or become better players and people on and off the field.
The most important thing, is to TRY
To me, rugby is not only a game where you need to be big, quick, or strong, but it teaches a lot of lessons that you can apply to your place of work and in your general life. Perseverance is a massive aspect, no matter how many times you are knocked down or tackled, your goal is to get up and get over the line. This can be mirrored in many life experiences. Compared to some other sports, respect is another huge element which is fundamental to rugby, which can be surprising for a game that involves smashing into each other at speed! You must respect the referee first and foremost and have respect for the team that you are playing against, as well as the club that you are playing for.
Teamwork and delegation are other skills that can be taken out of the game and into the workplace, as it really is a game for everyone of all different shapes and sizes. I have had a lot of exposure to working on strategy, identifying the strengths of individuals and applying these in the best way possible to achieve a team-wide goal. I could easily be talking about my role with WSA The Communications Agency, as the mindset and approach is the same, whether I am preparing a social media content strategy or how to break down competitors on the field.
For me, playing at my hometown team (Towcester) means more than just being part of a club – it’s also a huge part of my family and my life. When I think about what it means to me to have been made Captain, I am incredibly proud, and I see this as an opportunity to give back and serve a club that has done a lot for me personally. I am looking forward to being a role model to the younger generation coming through and making it a fun place for everyone to socialise and play an incredible and rewarding game.