Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Summer of Graft Paying off for Falcons Centre

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Summer of Graft Paying off for Falcons Centre

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Smith Sports Writer

ACOMBINATION of hard work and mental toughness has propelled James Fitzpatrick from fringe figure to first-team regular at Newcastle Falcons, but the South Shields native just wants to keep on learning.

An upward curve which had taken the former truck mechanic from local club Westoe to Blaydon and then on to Kingston Park looked to have reached its plateau last season when the hard-hitting centre found himself on the periphery of the club's RFU Championship-winning party.

A move to the Championship had been a possibility before injury to Samoan centre Jamie Helleur in the opening moments of the Premiership season and the retirement of Tane Tu'ipulotu opened the door - not that he is taking selection for granted ahead of tomorrow's trip to Worcester Warriors.

"It was disappointing not to play much last year, but the main thing was the team winning games and getting promoted back into the Premiership," said the 26-year-old, who has shown a remarkable upturn on his personal skills.

"I have put the graft in, "My approach has just been to take pre-season as a totally fresh new start, working on the areas where I know I need to improve.

and luckily got my "I have put the graft in, and luckily I have got my chance.

chance James Fitzpatrick "You don't want a team-mate to get injured, but you have to be ready to step in when needed.

"Hopefully, I have impressed the coachesand that is why I have been picked the past few weeks."

Looking to rectify the weaknesses in his game during a summer of improvement, Fitzpatrick added: "Ball-handling and defence have been the main areas and general decision-making.

"My stronger points are things like ball-carrying, but it is what I do after that which I have been working on, in terms of whether to offload, pass, hold on to it or whatever. …

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