FOR an initially reluctant convert to rugby union and someone in his first season at a senior club, Max Trimble is making quite a statement at Coventry.
The 25-year-old winger was probably Cov’s lowest-profile signing of the summer, arriving from Abu Dhabi Harlequins, but an impressive pre-season earned him a starting place in the side for the opening league game.
After scoring two tries in the first two games, Trimble was then sidelined by a shoulder issue with a second injury delaying his return until two weeks ago.
But he put in a full 80-minute shift against Old Albanian, and was back in scoring form at Darlington Mowden Park last weekend with a searing 45-metre run for Cov’s second try in the 20-20 draw.
“I’m not quite sure where that came from,” he said. “The ball was on the floor, I saw their big Islander coming at me, so I thought I’d better get going – I put the jets on, I just managed to wriggle out of a tackle, and then it was a race to the end.
“I thought my legs were going to give out, but I managed to dot it down.”
With ambitions in football, Trimble didn’t play rugby until he went to Nottingham High School – where he was a contemporary of James Stokes – and after showing promise in games lessons was first asked, and then told, to play for the school team.
“They said it was in the school contract that school takes priority, so I ended up having to play and just started to fall in love with it,” he said. “I’ve been playing ever since.”
After reaching sixth form, a couple of seasons in the senior team at junior club Moderns followed before Trimble went off to Leeds Metropolitan University where he spent four successful years and completed a degree in business studies.
“The university team was pretty good, quite a few of our boys were playing for Leeds Carnegie as well and five or six of them are playing in the Championship now,” he said. “We won the BUCS League and got to the Twickenham final two years in a row.
“I was about to finish university and the brother of a fresher I was playing with asked what I was doing next. I had zero plans, so he said ‘how would you like to come and play rugby in Abu Dhabi for a year?’
“I was there for eight months – I was living the dream, I had a maid and a driver, a big house. It was surreal.”
After a season with Quins, which saw them finish runners-up in the UAE Premiership and take the Gulf Men’s League title at the Dubai Sevens, Trimble’s link to Coventry came through Stokes, who had moved to Butts Park from Cambridge.
“I was toying with the idea of coming back and got in touch with James. He told me he was moving to Coventry and there might be a position for me.
“I’d got in touch with Rowland Winter a year before when he was at Cambridge. I came over, spoke to him, I think he’d heard about me from James and had seen a little about what I’d done at university, and it went on from there.
“This is the highest level I’ve played at and I wouldn’t say yet that I’m comfortable, but I feel like I can contribute – that’s the best way to put it.
“I’ve still got a lot to learn, this is my first exposure to senior rugby in England, so it’s tough and I’m experiencing new challenges all the time.
“But that’s why I’m loving it.”
Trimble has battled his way back from two shoulder injuries, the second a partial dislocation, with a game for Nuneaton – scoring a hat-trick of tries – towards the end of October helping him along the way.
“I can still feel the shoulder, it’s just something that you have to play through, and I’m fully fit now,” he said.
“With that kind of injury it’s always an ongoing rehab process, so as long as I can stay on top of it, hopefully I’ll be able to get to a stage where it won’t affect me anymore.
“I never really used to believe in match fitness, but recently I’ve started to realise that you can do all the training you want but that first game takes the wind out of you.
“I still remember the Loughborough game and a few of us lying down with calves cramping after 60 minutes, so as long as I can get more game time under my belt now, I’ll be happy.”
Added Trimble, who is one of the club’s part-time players and works for Wasps in corporate hospitality: “I think everyone I know who’s set pretty high targets has put a bit too much pressure on themselves – I’ve learnt that from the likes of James and a couple of the guys I was playing with at university, and I’ve seen at first hand that when they decided to just enjoy their rugby, that’s when they were playing their best.
“I think it’s a mentality that you always want to do better, and I want to keep pushing myself and trying to get to the next stage.
“But I’m still learning, so for me it’s just a matter of enjoying my rugby, trying to get some games under my belt, and if opportunities arise, I’ll take them.
“With the game we play there’s an injury just around the corner, so I think that’s part of the reason why I took a job as well so I’ve got something else going besides.
“There’s some really talented wingers in the club, I consider myself very fortunate to be in the position that I am and I know that one slip up or just a bad game can mean somebody else will be in that slot.
“You have to put the effort in and show it on the pitch.”