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- Lawrence switched from cricket to rugby at 16
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For many schoolboy athletes the cricket and rugby seasons dovetail perfectly, meaning the English rugby’s top leagues are packed with players that could have made county cricketers, and vice versa.
Wasps and England star Danny Cipriani was invited to join Surrey as a batsman, while England and Surrey’s explosive opener Jason Roy turned down an offer from Harlequins at under-17 level.
But Rotherham Titans’ flanker Buster Lawrence admits there was no going back once he swapped the small red ball for an oval one.
The 25-year-old, currently enjoying his first season in South Yorkshire after a three-year stint with Birmingham Moseley, has none other than former England cricketer David ‘Syd’ Lawrence as his father.
But once a teacher put a rugby ball in his hand there was only one path Buster wanted to take.
Mr Martinovic’s marvel
Cricket was the natural path for Lawrence with a former Test match bowler as his dad, and he soon found himself knocking on the door to the professional game.
He played representative cricket for Gloucestershire all the way up until the age of 16, before the comparisons between himself and Lawrence senior – whose career was ended prematurely through injury – became too much to bear.
“It was cricket for me to start with, I played that mainly until I was in Sixth Form – that was what I wanted to try and make a career out of,” he said. "I didn’t have much patience batting and was more of a pinch hitter!"
“But to be honest I got a little bit bored of the comparisons between myself and my dad, and all the expectation that came with it.
“I was an all-rounder as I didn’t want to bowl exclusively like my bad, but I didn’t have much patience batting and was more of a pinch hitter!
“I went to Colston's Collegiate in Bristol for Sixth Form, and there was a teacher there called Mr Martinovic who convinced me to try rugby – Alan is his name and he’s now head of recruitment at Bristol.
“So I only really found the sport during my last years at school and that was it – I knocked cricket on the head which my old man was a bit upset about, but I wanted to try my own sport.”
Lawrence made the switch to Rotherham following Moseley’s relegation from the Championship last season.
It’s not all been plain sailing so far, with the side second-bottom in the standings and Lawrence himself battling with the in-form Tom MacDonald and Ollie Curry for a place in the back row.
But with Justin Burnell running the show at Clifton Lane, he is in no doubt he made the right choice.
He said: “It was a really difficult decision to move; Moseley gave me my first chance in the Championship so I felt like I did owe them a lot, but I wanted full-time rugby and Moseley couldn’t quite offer that.
“So I had to make the decision to come up to Rotherham. It was hard, but sometimes you have to make those decisions for rugby reasons rather than sentimental.
“[Burnell] was a big factor; he’s had great success in the past, and he’s certainly straight down the line. You know where you stand with him as there’s no mincing of words!
“That’s good for all the boys, as he tells it how it is, and he likes the boys to tell each other how it is as well. You get used to it – he has very high standards and wants everyone to push each other.
“The whole club feel is very much like that, very close and very open, and I think Justin drives that.”
Lawrence’s time at Moseley sandwiched a spell with Premiership side Wasps, where he spent the 2014-15 season.
And while he admits he was not up to the step up in class at the time, he believes he learnt a lot from trying to break into a back-row that included James Haskell, Ashley Johnson, and Nathan Hughes.
“I did learn a lot there,” he said. “But to be honest I don’t think I was really ready for it at all, maybe if I was a bit older I would have done a bit better.
“I don’t regret it – you can’t take away from the fact that I got offered the opportunity, but I was still very raw as a player.
62 mins: TRY WASPS! Good phase play in the Welsh 22 brings maximum reward with Buster Lawrence bundling over. 31-17— Wasps (@WaspsRugby) November 24, 2014
“I wasn’t up to speed with their training or the standards required. I came on, but started off too far behind, and they have some unbelievable back rowers there who I couldn’t compete with.
“Ashley Johnson was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He had time for everyone, talked me through things, and really tried to help me out.
“I lived with Thomas Young – Dai’s son – who was always a good player but has now turned out to be unbelievable and has got into the Wales squad, so well done to him.
“I used to hang around with Josh Bassett as well, who has broken into the team this year, but I personally wasn’t there long enough to make an impact.”
Rum and raisins, Caribbean style
Behind many rugby players’ rugged exteriors there is a soft core, and Lawrence is no different – with the six-foot, 103-kilo forward feeling just as at home in the kitchen as he does in the scrum.
Buster is still very much in touch with his Jamaican heritage, and while he counts his grandmother’s own rum and raisin cake as his speciality dish, he is still happy to do his best with his teammates’ favourites.
He said: “My big thing away from rugby that I’m really into is my cooking and baking. I like trying new recipes and I love baking – and watching The Great British Bake-Off. “I bring in cakes for the boys every so often to boost morale..."
“I bring in cakes for the boys every so often to boost morale, and it certainly helped me settle in once I got here.
“It’s a hobby I don’t normally talk to people about, but my favourite thing is probably a rum and raisin cake that my Grandma taught me how to make.
“I do the classics as well like Victoria sponge and carrot cake, although they don’t look anywhere near as pretty as they do on TV.
“My Grandma tried to teach me a few savoury dishes – traditional Jamaican food like rice and peas, jerk chicken, and so on – but I can’t say that’s my forte.”