Will Hurrell believes there is a place for him at English domestic rugby’s top table after falling agonisingly short of Premiership promotion.
The 26-year-old enjoyed a brilliant return to the professional game this season as he helped Doncaster Knights reach the Championship final.
Hurrell, who took up the game at Melton RFC, scored a try in each of Donny’s four play-off games, including both legs of the final.
The South Yorkshire side won the second leg 32-30 in Bristol last Wednesday, but couldn’t overturn a 15-point deficit from the first leg, losing 60-47 on aggregate.
“We are just really disappointed with the first leg,” he said. “We wanted to keep it close, but we gave ourselves too much to do in the second game.”
“I love it here, but I do have ambitions to play in the Premiership still and (director of rugby) Clive (Griffiths) knows that.
“Hopefully that’s something I will get before I retire.”
Hurrell, who spent the early part of his career with the Leicester Tigers and represented England at the Under 20s World Championship, left the pro ranks four years ago to pursue a university degree.
Playing part-time rugby at Stourbridge and then Coventry, alongside his studies, helped rekindle his love for the game, and in May 2015 he was snapped up by the ambitious South Yorkshire side.
Hurrell added: “The first couple of weeks of pre-season were interesting. I won’t lie, it hit me like a ton of bricks, but I dug in hard to try and get a starting position and show what I can do.”
A switch from his accustomed slot on the wing to centre early in the season did nothing to phase Hurrell who made the position his own.
“I started on the wing for the first couple of games, but then the starting centre tore a bicep and I slotted in there,” he said.
“It took me a while, but by the end of the season I was getting really comfortable with it.
“I had done bits and bobs at 12 for Stourbridge and Coventry, but it’s not really the same in the part-time leagues.
“I was finding myself getting a lot more to read defensively and you’ve got to try and ball play as well.”
His impressive try tally and ferocious hits helped earn him a place in the Rugby Paper’s Championship Dream XV of the season.
Hurrell also picked up the top two awards at Doncaster’s annual presentation evening, winning the Player of the Year accolades from both coach and players.
He added: “I just want the team to do well, but to have both votes from the two sides that matter most was fantastic.
“I have loved this season. I started off slowly, finding my feet a bit for the first couple of games, but I’m really happy with how it’s gone since.”
Big performances in the end-of-season televised games have also earned some admirers from further afield, but for now Hurrell is happy to help the Knights go one better.
“There is a lot of chat, but I have to make the right decision,” he said. “I have signed on for another season here and we’ll go from there.
“Physically I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been. I’m getting to know my own body now and what’s right for it, so hopefully I’ve got another eight years of playing in me.”