Bill Meakes - the unlikely journey of a new Shed hero

Despite a (controversial) red card for Gloucester in the European Challenge cup final, front and centre in most of the celebration photo's is the ecstatic, smiling face of 24 year old Manly, New South Wales native, Bill Meakes, who's string of late season performances has had fans as well as TV pundits like David Flatman question his International eligibility for England on Twitter.

But the journey bringing Meakes to Kingsholm is not as straight forward as people realise and certainly hasn't been the traditional route taken to be a prominent Premiership squad member.

Starting out playing in the Sydney grade competitions and the famous Shute shield for Randwick, Meakes made a reputation for himself by putting in some strong performances for the Australia U20's side that finished 3rd in the 2011 junior World Cup and also in the Australia sevens side on the 2011 IRB sevens tour, culminating in him being courted, and often tipped to sign on for one of the Australian Super Rugby outfits.

 

However, in 2013 as Meakes had still yet to receive any offers for his services, despite training with the Waratah's A side, he took a massive risk by signing (on a non contract basis) for National League 2 side Clifton RFC, based in Bristol, as part of their HPU (High Performance Unit) project. Maybe not the logical step for a player with high ambitions, but a risky move that was a stepping stone to bigger things.

In January 2014, Clifton announced Meakes was going on loan to Gloucester Rugby, where he was largely used in the LV=Cup and A league games due to injuries and international call-ups, he did enough to earn a short term contract with the Cherry and Whites.

Meakes Premiership debut for Gloucester was a 7 minute appearance off the bench against Wasps at Twickenham in a 38 - 30 defeat, but what an amazing venue to have your professional debut in! His only other Premiership appearance in the 13/14 season was an exact reversal of that score against London Irish at Kingsholm, where he was called into action after just 20 minutes due to an injury to Charlie Sharples.

It was this season, however where Meakes has developed into a dependable starter for Gloucester, in a season where the back division has been decimated by injuries and international call ups to key men, making 14 Premiership appearances, and a string of high grade late season performances has seen him become a real fan favourite, alongside another surprise package in Henry Purdy.

 

These performances were so good, in fact, that he was offered a 2 year deal with Gloucester in January this year, and will doubtlessly continue to wrack up the appearances, due to his undoubted talent and ability to cover both centre positions as well as the wing spots.

Meakes was also a member of the Gloucester 7's side that successfully retained the JP Morgan seven's title at the start of this season, added to the aforementioned European Challenge cup, that's 2 trophies in his first full season, not a bad haul at all!!!

And the answer to the eligibility question asked by David Flatman? Billy already holds a British passport. With the rags to riches nature of his story so far, you can't bet against someone taking a chance on him!