IT MAY still be early days in his sporting career, but Luke Booth has made a big impression at Lockwood Park – and not just as a rugby player.
For as well as being a highly-rated winger and now the first-choice kicker, the 20-year-old from Kirkburton already has international honours in the ultra-physical sport of Aussie Rules!
Booth has come up through Huddersfield Rugby Union Club’s very successful junior system.
He began as a 12-year-old, eventually progressing to the academy side, and this season to the first XV.
A couple of years ago he ventured down to Lockwood Park for a look at the game of Aussie Rules (Huddersfield Rams have been based at the ground since 2008), and quickly became hooked, loving the physical aspect of what at times can be a pretty brutal game.
Indeed, he took to the new sport so successfully that he was recommended for national trials in Chippenham by coach Neil Morrison.
He went on to help the Rams win the Bowl Cup at the 2012 Haggis Cup, held in Edinburgh, where along with captain Jason Battye, he was awarded a place in the Haggis Team of the Tournament.
Following that success he quickly found himself selected for the England Dragonslayers Euro Cup squad along with Rams teammate Matt Whiteley.
And Booth won a place on the ‘Team of the Tournament’, the highest individual honour a Rams player has received.
If that wasn’t good enough on his rapid rise to Aussie Rules prominence, Booth was then selected to play for the European Islands team, made up of representatives from Great Britain, Ireland and Iceland, to play a curtain-raiser against Continental Europe, prior to a major AFL game played at The Oval last October.
“It all began when the Rams were running a ‘taster session’ down at the ground and I just went down to see what it was like and really enjoyed it,” said Booth, who was the team’s leading kicker with 24 goals last season.
His ability with the boot was soon recognised by Huddersfield RU coach Dan Hyde.
H gave him the responsibility of taking the penalties just before Christmas.
He has slotted over 10 penalties and six conversions.
“I play either at full-forward or half-forward in Aussie Rules, which is really all about catching and kicking,” added Booth, who works as an apprentice fabricator.
Such is Booth’s meteoric rise in the Australian sport that he has now been selected for the Great Britain Bulldogs team for the 2013 Championships in Ireland.
Back on the rugby scene, Booth only made his first-team debut in a National II North League game a few weeks ago.
But he has clearly done enough to cement his place in the side (barring injury) and not just for his place kicking, where he has already banged over several wide-out and long-range testers.
“I used to do the kicking duties while in the juniors, where I played mainly at outside centre,” he continued.
“I was asked to take the shots at goal when a couple of the others guys were struggling a bit, and have been doing it ever since.
“Obviously playing on the wing you don’t get to see quite as much of the ball as I would like, but with the team struggling for points, there might be a rethink on tactics, and hopefully I’ll see a bit more action if we start playing a bit wider.”
Although Booth was brought up with rugby union, which he’s played for eight years, he tends to sit on the fence when asked which sport he prefers.
“It’s a good question and difficult to choose which is my favourite, because I’m really enjoying both,” he said.
“But I’ve got to admit, I do like playing when it’s a bit warmer (Aussie Rules is played during the summer months), as opposed to games like last week’s rugby match against Leicester, when it was absolutely freezing down at Lockwood Park!”