Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The First Legend

Naomi ("Nim") Parnell (Letchworth, Hertfordshire & East) 2004-2007

Rumour has it that prior to her joining Letchworth, Nim had considered football as a possible sporting career. Given her uncompromising attitude to defence Nim would indeed have been a valuable addition to any team... if it were still the 1970s. However quite how she would have got on in the modern - practically non-contact - version of this sport (where players fall over in writhing heaps if someone breathes on them too hard) is another matter, and it is perhaps fortunate for everyone that back in October 2004 she decided to give rugby a try instead!

It is difficult to believe that we will not see again (in a Letchworth shirt at least) that cobra-like unblinking stare as she lined up her target, the squaring up of the shoulders, the quick skip and then.... pow! - the victim lying on the floor in a heap, or quite frequently over the touchline and into the crowd. Or equally the cross-field chase - like a cheetah closing in on its prey - before the pounce and kill.

And all entirely legal. Rarely above the waist let alone higher, Nim's tackles were simply textbook - perfectly timed, fast, targeted, hard-hitting, and lethal. Forget Tango - players knew when they had been Nim'd!

In the beginning it took its toll on Nim almost as much as her victims. After the first season her knees were a mess and there was some concern about her playing again at all, but more improvements in technique (and above all timing) seem to have ironed that small problem out.

With ball in hand Nim is also a formidable opponent, but scored remarkably few tries overall - most of the time perhaps using her initial impact to open the way for others, invariably Hayley with whom Nim developed an almost psychic (or should that be psychotic?) partnership - never better demonstrated than with the try at Westcliff this season when it was Nim's perfectly timed run to take the ball from Hayley as she was tackled that lead to a crucial score. Not a word spoken - Hayley seemed to know Nim was there and popped the ball up perfectly into her hands.

The big mystery was always why regional selectors never seemed to see this, and how Nim rarely seemed to shine in representative games as much as she did at club level. One explanation may be that - when it comes to selection - Nim never responded well to antiseptic adrenalin-less routine of rehearsed drills, especially when these drills rarely gave her any chance to really show what she could do, and - as most selectors refuse to take "reputation" into account - it was only at her third and final attempt that Nim managed to get into the regional squad.

In addition Hertfordshire is such a strong, dominant side that Nim rarely needed to show her defensive capabilities because defence was rarely a high priority for a side most of whose games take place in the opposition half, if not 22! At region she had her moments, especially in the finals at Rugby School, but did not seem to relax into her role as much as she did at club level. If she had been selected a year or so earlier things might have been different...

So it is at club level that Nim will be most remembered, by teammates and opponents alike. The quiet, even shy, 15 year old of 2004 who was transformed by the game and her friends to become a star. A player whose boots will be almost impossible to fill next season, the first "graduate" of the Letchworth school of girls' rugby, and the "Legends" first true legend.

(If anyone wants to add their own memories of playing with - or even against - Nim, please hit the comments link below).

1 comment:

  1. wedgies nim..wedgies
    lov ya :(


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