Saracens - Jackson Wray's path to the top

Apr 24, 2015

Jackson Wray's path to the top


Following the news that Jackson Wray has extend his stay at Allianz Park by putting pen to paper on a long term deal, we take a look at how Jackson became a Saracens star.

Early Days

Wray first started rugby at King John School in Essex before joining Westcliff RFC when he was 14. Two years later Wray joined Barking and then moved on to become part of the Saracens Academy.

However, that came after Wray chose not to pursue a career as a hammer thrower.“I was doing quite well in athletics as well and had quite a lot of success,” said Wray. “But I had to choose between that and rugby and think I definitely made the right decision.”

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Enter Saracens

“When I first joined the club it was much different to how it is now," said Wray. "As a group we didn’t train alongside the first team, and that’s not the case now. In my group of players we trained together, we did fitness with each other and it helped us drive each other on.

"We went through some pretty gruelling times getting up to speed with being a professional rugby player, but looking back on to those days working together as a tight-knit group has put us in good stead for our careers.

Saracens Training, St.Albans 5&6&7/07/2010

"When I first started playing we didn’t really interact with the first team. When we first joined the two guys we only really had regular contact with were Andy Edwards (Strength and Conditioning Coach) and Mike Hynard (then Saracens Academy Manager), and I’m still best mates with Andy and I’ve since stayed in touch with Mike.”

Class of 2008

Wray has progressed through the ranks alongside fellow Saracens stars, Owen Farrell, Will Fraser, Jamie George and George Kruis to become the country’s most promising loose forwards. For Wray, playing alongside the men who he progressed through the ranks with at the club has been a positive experience.

Wray: “It’s brilliant to have put pen to paper to stay here. To have made over 100 appearances alongside the guys I have played with, I feel very fortunate. It’s definitely a privilege. I still feel like I’m always developing and always learning.

Saracens Photocall

“We’ve known each other for years and years and it’s nice to have played alongside each other, with my mates. It’s brilliant, we can start to push the club forward as a group and use our experiences that we’ve gathered form coming though the Saracens system to good effect. When Brendan (Venter) and Mark (McCall) came into the club all those years ago, there was a great emphasis put on players coming through the system and it’s been a pleasure to be a part of that right from the start. The club’s miles better since I first joined, and it’s been pretty special to be a part of that.

“When I first joined the club it was much different to how it is now. As a group we didn’t train alongside the first team, and that’s not the case now. In my group of players we trained together, we did fitness with each other and it helped us drive each other on.

"We went through some pretty gruelling times getting up to speed with being a professional rugby player, but looking back on to those days working together as a tight-knit group has put us in good stead for our careers.

"When I first started playing we didn’t really interact with the first team. When we first joined the two guys we only really had regular contact with were Andy Edwards (Strength and Conditioning Coach) and Mike Hynard (then Saracens Academy Manager), and I’m still best mates with Andy and I’ve since stayed in touch with Mike.”

Learning from the best

Wray is a student of the game, and as he reveals playing alongside some of the Premiership’s most decorated players have had a huge impact on his career thus far.

Saracens v Worcester, 03/05/2014

They were the guys who have shaped us since an early age,” he said. “Coming through the ranks you take certain things from different people and Steve Borthwick was definitely an influence on everyone coming through. His professionalism and the way he went about his work meant he was brilliant pro to learn things from. I’m not saying I’m anywhere near Steve in terms of how diligently I do things, but I try to strive to get to the high standards Steve had. He had a lot of respect for how he was off the pitch as well as how influential he was on the pitch - that’s definitely something I took away.

“Richard Hill was another who played a significant role during my formative years. He helped me a lot, he had a massive impact with the younger guys, but it’s difficult to single out people as so many helped along the way - players you play alongside, coaches and your mates. I’m very lucky to have so many good people around me at Saracens. There’s always people willing to help.

Influence

One man Jackson credits for helping launch his and his team mate’s careers was Brendan Venter.

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Jackson: "When Brendan first came into the club, he gave us younger guys the opportunity to play and he wanted us to push the club forward,” said Wray. “At the time we thought that it was good for us, but I don’t think he’d actually push us through to play 100 games alongside each other. It’s been a good nine years, and I’ve enjoyed every minute and I’ll look forward to making many more appearances for this club.”

Indeed, with Wray now joining Messrs and Farrell, Itoje and Kruis in extending his stay with Saracens, the future looks to be in good hands for Saracens.

On extending his stay

Wray slide

“It was very easy decision to make. I’ve really enjoyed my time here since I arrived as a young lad. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to extend my deal, and I’m hoping to keep the momentum going.

"The club has been brilliant for me, it's everything the club do, and it’s the whole package that has made my time here so enjoyable. Extending my contract was something I was more than keen on doing"

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