For the vast majority of people who play the great game of rugby it enables them to become weekend warriors, venting the weeks frustrations and offloading the troubles of the world onto the opposition, enabling them to go back work on Monday calmer and more rounded individuals. But what happens when rugby IS your work and your living, and it abruptly comes to an end through no fault of your own?
This was the unfortunate scenario professional rugby player Budge Pountney found himself in during the peak of his career with Northampton Saints.
Following a badly broken ankle he was forced to retire from playing at just 29. “At that time of life you feel indestructible” Budge told Rugby Monthly. “Retiring from the game was the last thing on my mind when I was at Northampton.
We were a successful club and I was also playing International rugby for Scotland. Life was very good on and off the pitch. I was very lucky to have one of the best ever coaches in the game looking after my career, Sir Ian McGeechan, and he was a huge influence.
Together with the great Jim Telfer they guided me through the Scottish ranks to full International where I won 31 caps and played in a World Cup. Don’t get me wrong, I had to fight to earn my place in the squad but they helped me become a better player. At that time I just wanted to play forever!”
This would not be the case for Budge unfortunately. He had joined Saints straight from Loughborough Uni and had no real career to return to after his early retirement. “A lot of the guys who were at the club had had jobs prior to becoming professional rugby players so they always had something to fall back on if things went wrong.
The clubs didn’t really need to offer pastoral care in terms of future careers for players back then. It was the start of the professional era and it was very new to everyone. When it did happen to me though the RPA were excellent in looking after me initially.”
“I was also very lucky in that I had always had a huge interest in the strength and conditioning side of the game so I was able to work with those guys at Saints for 6 months. At the same time Alan Solomons the head coach was having a tough time at the club and myself and Paul Grayson were asked to take over so i suddenly found myself Director of Rugby! It wasn’t really a position I wanted at the time as I found I was having to deal with team mates at a managerial level. “
Budge stayed in position for 2 years before deciding he wanted a complete change from rugby. He bought a franchise called Water Babies with his wife and spent the next 7 years immersing himself into the business.
Rugby was never far from his life though as he kept a position of citing officer. He then got an offer from Totton College to help Junior Paramore build their rugby team, a position he still looks back on with great fondness. The RPA then offered him permanent employment looking after professional players during which time he kept his coaching qualifications up to date.
When the position of Director of Rugby came up at Marlborough College he jumped at the chance “Coaching junior players is something I have always loved so it was a perfect fit. I thoroughly enjoy being able to make a difference and passing my knowledge and experience onto the young players of the future. This is a great place to work and there are some very talented players. Professional players today are very well looked after by their clubs as to what to do when the playing days are over because sooner or later their playing career WILL come to an end. I try to impress this on my students so they understand the importance of good qualifications and a defined career path”.
Family is very important to Budge and he loves nothing more than spending his down time walking through the New Forest with his wife and children and the family dog Guinness. His son plays at local club Fordingbridge RFC and is a huge Ulster Rugby fan.
With Budge having played for Scotland and his daughter supporting England the 6 Nations are sure to be fun in the Pountney household! We asked him if he would still like to be able to play – “DEFINITELY! I still really miss the game, the physicality and the banter with team mates. The good times I had in the game were great but it’s so much more professional these days and much more of a science and I really love that.”
Despite having to cut short his very impressive career Budge doesn’t look back with regret.
Having spent time with him at the College his passion for coaching is obvious and he has integrated himself fully into school life. He has been coached by some of the best in the world and I’m sure his pupils will benefit greatly from having this experience and knowledge passed on to them.