He may still be just 21, but having been involved with the Saints for the best part of nine years, Reece Marshall was delighted to get a first senior Gardens appearance under his belt a fortnight ago.
“To finally get on was brilliant,” Marshall told SaintsTV. “I hadn’t appreciated the atmosphere and everything that goes with making your debut until after the game really.
“Following the game I was ecstatic. It was just a thoroughly enjoyable experience for me and I just want to kick on and carry on playing for this team.”
The hooker is the latest in a long line of young Saints to benefit from time out on dual registration, something he recognises as important – even if nothing could fully prepare him for his first collision in the Aviva Premiership!
“I’ve been involved with the club since I was 12 and after joining full-time at 18 I’ve gone out on loan to number of clubs, just trying to get game time to work and build on my set piece.
“It’s important because you can’t just chuck anybody out there - as I found out on my first tackle when I got shot!”
Along with those spells at clubs including Moseley and Old Albanians, like many prospects Marshall gives plenty of credit to the family that helped shape him growing up.
“When I was about five my dad took me down to our local club, Dunstablians, and I was actually the worst player on the team!” says Marshall with a sheepish grin. “Until I was about nine I didn’t understand the offside line or anything! Fortunately, sooner or later a bit of contact came in which I thrived on. I was a bigger lad than most back then.”
Playing from such a young age, it would be safe to assume that rugby is a big part of life for the Marshall Family.
“My dad played for Bedford Blues - a while back. He loves his rugby. He’s been my coach since I was about nine, and he was a brilliant coach for kids. He’s had a lot of players go on and play professionally and he’s been a massive influence and he’s supported me throughout my career.”
Does Marshall Snr still hand out ‘helpful’ tips when he can?
“No he’s actually quite good to be fair! Him and my brother are both proper rugby nauses, and they both think they know bits and bobs so I had to tell them both to be quiet. He just wants to know how I’m getting on in training, if I’ve got any knocks, that sort of thing.”
Talking to Marshall, it’s clear how important family is to him - joking about his dad’s coaching is tinged with sincere and heartfelt gratitude. The same goes for his mother, who Marshall says was always there.
“My mum doesn’t perhaps know as much about the game but she’s always been there for me, always supported me, and she’s always been there when I needed her to be. There’s been a lot of times where I’ve had to do a lot of travelling and my family have always been more than happy to chip in and help out which is all I could ask for.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them.”