Durham produces cream of English women’s rugby talent, so why have Sharks only won nine games in four years?

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But the flow of talent isn’t only going in one direction. Sam Herrick, a single mother who is in her second season at DMP, has bucked the trend. Having previously enjoyed stints at Gloucester-Hartpury and Bristol Bears, she joined the club during the Covid-hit 2020-21 season amid a shortage of props after relocating to the north east.

“We are a good team,” Herrick tells Telegraph Sport, the passion cutting through her voice. “It is frustrating when you are playing a team of 15 who are pretty much their full time job. As a team, we dig in, we keep going. If we were getting paid for what we’re doing, we’d be next level.” 

Such is Herrick’s enthusiasm for the game that she returned to rugby just three months after giving birth in 2017, in part due to the “massive support network” she can count on for childcare. Even if it means a constant dribble of defeats, rugby remains the constant in her life. “I’ve gone through a breakup and divorce over the whole of Covid, but rugby takes everything away,” she says.

Herrick takes pride in being a role model to some of the squad’s newest players, such as Rosie Inman, who began training with DMP last year. A student at Durham University, which officially linked with DMP two years ago, Inman just missed the cut-off point for England under-20 selection, but playing for an under-resourced club has not marred her aspirations to progress in the sport. 

“I’ve always wanted to play rugby at a high level,” she says. “Because of Covid, the Premier 15s was the only level that was still going when I wanted to play. We’re doing as much as we can, we can’t be down about it.” 

Amid the pace that the female game is developing, the club is still galvanized by a sense of community culture that investment and professionalism can often sweep aside. “I would love to play for a team that does win – but I’d rather stay here and help elite women’s rugby in the north east progress,” concludes Thomas-Roberts. 

It is that open mindset which is driving DMP forwards. They may be down, but they are certainly not out.

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