Grayson set to throw down the gauntlet at Saints

James Grayson is ready for another big season at Saints
James Grayson is ready for another big season at Saints

During the summer, James Grayson got the chance to do something many aspiring players dream of.

The 21-year-old was able to give something back.

Grayson headed down to his boyhood club, Old Northamptonians, and presented them with a cheque for £1,000.

It was the money he received for winning the Premiership Rugby Cup’s breakthrough player award, having steered Saints to glory in the competition last season.

And how sweet it was for Grayson to be able to go back to Billing Road and give his payout to the club that did so much to help him realise his ambition of becoming a Saint.

“I’ve played at the ONs from four to 17,” Grayson explained. “I managed to play for the first team and create some friends for life there.

Grayson won the breakthrough player award after steering Saints to glory in the Premiership Rugby Cup last season

Grayson won the breakthrough player award after steering Saints to glory in the Premiership Rugby Cup last season

“I still go down there and have a beer when I can.

“I watch them on a Saturday afternoon if we’re playing on a Friday night.

“They helped me through my career and my brothers have played there and we’ve played cricket there.

“It’s where my family spent the past 13, 14 years so for me it was the only place it (the money) could go.

“They had a family fun day for the centenary year so it was awesome to go back down there, go to the dinner and present the cheque on the Sunday when they had a football tournament, food and music and stuff like that.

“It was great to be able to go there and give them that cheque.”

Not only has Grayson played rugby at ONs but he has also had some cricketing experiences there, too.

Not that he wants to remember too much about his most recent one...

“It’s always been my dream to play rugby professionally but I’ve always tried to be involved in other sports as well,” he said.

“I played cricket for the ONs until last year and it’s starting to become less and less.

“I played one game this year and I was terrible so I thought I’d call it a day.

“I didn’t bat, I was in as a specialist fielder and I dropped one catch so that was my day done.

“It was an absolute dolly so I was kind of trying to hide in the field a little bit after that.

“It was against Wollaston for the first team and it is funny because I’ve always been a good fielder and been able to slog it, but not catching a cricket ball for a year and going straight back in, it was completely different.

“I’d forgotten how to catch.

“I think I probably needed two or three games to get back into it, but pre-season came around too quickly.”

Pre-season might have come around quickly, but it hasn’t gone quite as fast.

Because of the World Cup, the start of the season has been delayed until September 21, when Saints start the defence of their Premiership Rugby Cup crown at Sale Sharks.

And Grayson said: “We’re massively looking forward to it.

“The intensity’s starting to ramp up and it’s been a long old pre-season. Lads are ready to go.

“As a rugby fan you watch the international games and having some of your mates playing, you watch it with an extra bit of interest.

“It’s nice to see Luds (Lewis Ludlam) going well, Courtney (Lawes) is always immense whoever he plays for and Piers (Francis) has taken his chance with both hands.

“Obviously Bigs (Dan Biggar) is good with Wales and it’s nice to see the lads going well.

“Hopefully they can all go and have a prosperous World Cup.”

If Biggar does have a strong World Cup, it will mean Grayson’s responsibility of being Saints’ main fly-half goes on much longer.

And that is a challenge he can’t wait to take on as he looks to push his senior Saints colleague all the way at Franklin’s Gardens this season.

“Speaking to Boydy (Saints boss Chris Boyd), first eight, nine games I’ll hopefully get plenty of opportunities to show what I can do,” said Grayson, who has 29 Saints appearances to his name so far.

“I’ve had a decent pre-season here, been in from the start, which I’ve not had yet because of Junior World Cups and stuff, and to have a full pre-season is good.

“I’m feeling fit and ready to go and I’m looking forward to taking some opportunities.

“I’m putting as much pressure on Dan as I can and trying to squeeze in as many games as I can to force my way into the team.

“There’s no better chance to do that than having the chance to start straight away and then hopefully I can be in good enough form to make Dan fight his way back into the team.

“I want to put myself forward and lead by example.”

Grayson certainly did that when he got the chance last season, showing just how far he has come since making his Saints debut during the 2017/18 campaign.

He played a key role in a strong showing from the club on all three fronts last season.

“For the team it was brilliant,” said Grayson, who signed his first senior contract at Saints in December 2018, signing on until 2021.

“Winning the Premiership Rugby Cup was good. We had a decent amount of lads coming through and actually holding on to their shirts and playing in the Premiership.

“Finishing fourth in the Premiership was a pretty good effort.

“Going into this season we’ll be looking to bump it up to top two, get a home semi-final and not let last year be a one off.

“Personally I got lots of opportunities in the Premiership Rugby Cup and played quite a bit in the Premiership as well.

“It was nice, it was a learning experience and it was nice to have Dan here to learn from him and to help me through it.

“I’ve got lots of good rugby people around me, I can talk to my old man (Saints legend Paul Grayson) about it and Boydy and (Saints attack coach) Sam (Vesty) always have opinions and help me where I need it.

“It was good last year and hopefully this year I can push on and take it in my stride.”