Just days after reaching the 50 appearance landmark for the Ospreys, young centre Ashley Beck rounded off a good week when he was crowned the Worthington’s Fans Player of the Year at the Ospreys end of season dinner on Wednesday evening.
It’s been a real breakthrough year for a player who once became the youngest player ever to feature in the league when he came off the bench to face Brian O’Driscoll and his Leinster team at the Liberty Stadium back in November 2007, aged just 17 years and 222 days, a record that was only surpassed last month.
Having scored the 2010/11 Magners League try of the season at the Liberty Stadium in a game against Glasgow last March, Beck has gone on to establish himself as a first team regular this season and hasn’t looked back, his 21 appearances and six tries helping him on his way to become a fans favourite.
Reflecting on a good week for himself personally, his 50th appearance and the award, Beck said:
“I’m really happy to get there. It’s a great achievement just to play for my home region so to do it 50 times is incredible. This year has been unbelievable for me and the total has risen really quickly. I’m really proud of the achievement.
“Also, to be voted player of the year by the fans is brilliant. I’m a local boy who started playing rugby at Skewen RFC, so to progress to the Ospreys and then be voted player of the year by the supporters is unbelievable. I can’t thank the fans enough for voting for me, thanks to everyone who took the time.”
Having made his debut as a 17-year old, Beck had to bide his time before really making his mark over the last 15 months, but he says that the experience of just being part of the Ospreys environment was crucial to his development.
“I did get some game time at a really young age which was a fantastic experience for me but when you’ve got international boys, experienced players, in front of you in the team then you have to be patient” said Beck.
“I had to bide my time but working with players like that every day in training helped to improve my game, to become a better player, and at the end of last season going into this one it’s been good to get a real run of games in the starting fifteen. I’m enjoying my rugby, enjoying playing for the Ospreys.”
His form in an Ospreys shirt this season saw him named in the Wales squad for this year’s Six Nations campaign, and although he is still waiting for his international cap, he insists that it was a great experience:
“It’s all about picking up new experiences at this stage of my career, and always learning. It was good to get a call-up at the start of the year. I never expected it, and just to be in the environment was good, especially when they won the Grand Slam. I didn’t play but I was 23rd man a few times so I got to experience so many things.
“Everyone wants to play for their country and I’ve had a real taste during the Six Nations, but I know that if I want to get the cap then I’ve got to earn it through what I do week-in, week-out back at the Ospreys. This is my main focus, and it has to be.”
Since the end of the Six Nations, the Ospreys have steadied what had been a disappointing run of form, with four straight wins putting them into second spot in the PRO12 to secure a home play-off with a game still to go. Beck acknowledges that there will be pressure on the Ospreys to secure the trophy, but he insists that the team will remain focussed on the job in hand.
“To beat Leinster away first game back really gave the boys some confidence and we’ve kicked on from there” he said.
“People have self-belief and we can’t wait for each game to come. We’ve put in some good performances over the last few weeks of the season to get us a home semi-final, but we need to keep that going until the end of May to make sure the hard work isn’t wasted.
“It looks as though we’ll be the only Welsh team to get through to the play-offs again, that’s the third season in a row. We’re proud of that record. We won the final two years ago but we were disappointed at the way we played out in Munster last year in the semi.
“I guess that the Ospreys get judged on silverware so there’ll be pressure on us in the play-offs. People do expect us to win things and there’s pressure on us every time we go on the field but that’s good as we know we can’t afford to let our standards drop.”