Outside back Zach Kerr has joined Newcastle Falcons’ senior academy, the Northern Irishman combining his rugby commitments with a law degree at Newcastle University.
The 20-year-old can play at outside centre or on the wing, and has earned his contract after impressing during a trial spell with the Kingston Park club.
Academy manager Mark Laycock said: “Zach came onto our radar through Newcastle University’s coach Darren Fearn, so it’s another great example of our associate academy route bearing fruit.
“We like to have strong links with all the clubs, universities and schools within our region, and through recommendations like this we’re able to bring people in and have a close look at them.”
Laycock added: “Zach has a great attitude and very strong core skills – passing, kicking, defending and game understanding – so it’s been great having him around. He’s taken his opportunity with both hands since he arrived, and it just goes to show what’s possible.
“He plays mainly outside centre or wing, and we’re delighted to have him on board for the rest of the season. I look forward to working with him a bit more as the season goes on, and it shows the associate academy pathway is very much open.”
Explaining his rugby journey, Kerr said: “I came from a rugby-playing family. My uncle, Mark McCall, played rugby for Ireland, and my grandad was actually an Irish cricket international. My dad and another uncle of mine were also good rugby players, and it’s just something that’s always been around the family.
“I played for Bangor Grammar School, where I was captain in my final year, and outside of school I played for Bangor in the All-Ireland League, which isn’t a bad standard. That was a great experience for me, and once I’d left school I went over to New Zealand to play down there.
“I played a season of club rugby in the Bay of Plenty region for Tauranga Sports, and also played one game for Bay of Plenty’s provincial team. That was a really good experience, and I’d actually gone back to New Zealand and been there for a couple of weeks when all the Covid stuff started, so I headed back home.
“In between I’d had a couple of months at Yorkshire Carnegie in the English Championship, which was a tough time for everyone with all the financial problems going on there at the time.
“I started with the Falcons around September time, when they were good enough to allow me to come in and train with them throughout their pre-season. Thankfully I’ve been awarded with the fantastic opportunity of a senior academy contract, which is really pleasing, and I’m just determined to make the most of this chance.”
Kerr added: “I’ve been here coming up to three months now, which has been brilliant, and the boys have all made me feel welcome. I’ve learned a huge amount, the players have been incredibly helpful and it’s great just to be in this environment.
“I’ve started a law degree at Newcastle University, which is obviously a bit different with all the teaching having to be done remotely. In all fairness that probably works in my favour because it’s easier to fit everything around my training with it all being online, so I can do it around my rugby. I’m obviously keen to push on with both, and as the season goes on then hopefully I can press my case for some game time.
“It’s early days for me and I know I have a lot of work to do before I get there, but it’s a really good club here and I’m just determined to make the most of this opportunity.”