As Josh Clark prepares to play in front of 40,000 spectators and millions of TV viewers worldwide in the Sevens World Cup in Hong Kong this Friday, his mind is on his Cayman roots.
The youngster, who has come through the excellent Cayman youth rugby programme, took time out to thank those that have done so much to help him reach a huge milestone in his yet young career.
In an email Josh wrote recently he talked about how far he has come.
‘I still find it difficult to believe that at just 20 I am off to the No.1 sevens tournament in the world with the top 20 sevens teams and the best 200 sevens players worldwide.
‘It seems so far removed from my first days running around at the South Side rugby pitch with a handful of other young guys.’
Clarke rose through the ranks and represented Cayman in various tournaments overseas.
‘I remember travelling with five others in awe to Red Rock in Fiji in 2004 to train with the Fijian players and Venassio Tokatokavanua and feeling like a million dollars. I thought that it was an unsurpassable occasion in my rugby career. That was thanks to an HSBC sponsorship.
‘I have played for four years in the Cable & Wireless National sevens team in four Caribbean championships and of course last year in the Sevens Rugby World Cup Qualifiers where I was noticed by the West Indies selectors.
‘I was in the Maples Sevens Academy from the age of 15 and the preparation of that programme including all of those 5:20am training sessions at King’s paved the way for this upcoming weekend.’
Clarke is very aware of the role sponsors in the community play in his development.
‘I guess sometimes we forget the name that is printed on your jersey when you run out onto the field. Sometimes it does not mean so much but with Hong Kong in front of me I now fully recognise the huge opportunity that has been given to me through the generosity of our sponsors over the past five or six years.
‘Without them I certainly would not be heading to Hong Kong to represent not only the West Indies but also the Cayman Islands.
‘I have an opportunity to show the world that Cayman can produce world-class rugby players. What’s more I can now show the hundreds of boys and girls involved in the rugby programme that with work and dedication they can follow and exceed my foot steps in the wonderful game.
‘To my sponsors a massive thank you, I will try and do you all proud.’
Union President Derek Haines is extremely proud of Josh and his accomplishments.
‘It is not always easy breaking new ground, but that is what we have accomplished here in Cayman with the youth and rugby programme,’ Haines said.
‘We are now beginning to reap the rewards of our vision nine years ago. If you take time to sit back and look you will see a massive movement of young players coming through the ranks that is simply monumental.
‘Our Under-20s are off to Kenya to compete against the top 24 in the world at their age group; the U10, U12 and U14 just returned last week after the Conyers Cup in Bermuda with our U14 running out winners at 26-0, Josh is on his way to Hong Kong, Mike Wilson was as close as it gets to joining him, our U19 will defend their Caribbean championship here in Cayman in July and our national sevens programme with an average age of only 20 moved from 12th to fourth place in the Caribbean last year.
‘It has not been easy but we have stuck to our guns on our youth development policies, our sponsors have been brilliant and stuck with us and every second has been worth it.’