It has been a long trek for Ealing Trailfinders second-row Dan Collier, but now that he has made it into the first team squad, he has no intention of being anywhere else on match day.
The Ealing-born player began training with Mike Cudmore’s squad at the end of the previous season, but had to wait until two weeks ago for his debut in the British and Irish Cup match away to Cross Keys.
A week on he came off the bench again to make his first start for Ealing in the Greene King IPA Championship, against Moseley in the mud at Billingsley Common.
“It felt really good to get back on the field and play Championship rugby again,” he said. “This week I got told do the same as Cross Keys because I just went around and hit every ruck and cleaned. I made some good line-breaks and they wanted to see that again.
“The nerves got to me, which I think is really good as you’ve got to hit every tackle and hit every line-break. I think you’ve got to feed off those nerves and it makes you play so much better.”
The 29-year-old began playing with local rivals Old Actonians and then moved to London Scottish from the ages of 17-22. After that he switched to London Welsh, then spent a year with Manchester in National 1 and eventually moved to Plymouth Albion in 2009.
He was with the south-west club for three years, but after being promised a contract extension the offer was withdrawn, which left him without a club for the 2012-2013 season.
Collier admits he allowed the situation to get to him and that he “got fat and got lazy.” After missing most of the 2012-2013 season he eventually came down to Vallis Way and after speaking to Cudmore was given an opportunity to train with the squad.
Now he is competing for a place in the engine room with the likes of captain Adam Preocanin, Gavin Curry and Steve Pape.
“Competition is good because you all push each other to aspire to new levels,” he said. “I’ve been pushed to my limits in fitness because I’m always trying to catch up as I’ve been out for a year.
“This year was always going to be a bit niggley for me because I was out for a year and without contact, but now it is just starting to come together again.
“No-one can tell you how good it feels to be out for a year and to get back out there into it and your passion starts going and your heart starts racing. You’re ready to go and it is a great feeling.”