Premiership Player of the Year Ollie Lawrence admits there was ‘an element of desperation’ in his sensational performances for Bath after they gave him a ‘second chance’ following Worcester’s passing
Ollie Lawrence had to tear himself away from Bath’s end-of-season party in Portugal to attend the Premiership awards, but it proved to be worth the arduous journey as he was named Player of the Year.
“I was in Lisbon with the squad about four hours ago,” the England center said shortly after arriving late at the big event in central London on Wednesday night. ‘My first flight was delayed, then the second flight was delayed, but eventually I made it to Gatwick and managed to cross London – albeit a little late.’
The entire season has been a rough, dramatic journey for Lawrence. He went from being unemployed after Worcester’s collapse, to being acclaimed on his return to the England team and then earning the league’s top individual award. “It’s been pretty surreal,” he said.
“I feel incredibly privileged. To think where we started with Worcester to be at these awards now means a lot to me. I’ve had to pinch myself sometimes to remember where I’m from, but I keep my feet on the ground and just enjoy myself.”
When asked about the lowest ebb, Lawrence reflected on the turbulence he and his fellow Warriors were caught in last fall. “The week before going into administration was really tough because we knew it was going to happen when we started the game, so some guys asked if we should play,” he said.
Bath center Ollie Lawrence won the Gallagher Premiership Player of the Season award
Lawrence’s effort against Saracens last Saturday secured a spot in the Champions Cup
“To take the field at Sixways for the last time and take the win (against Newcastle) was something that will always be special to me. Hopefully one day I can go out and play for those fans again.”
Lawrence called his England recall in the Six Nations and Bath’s final qualification for next season’s Champions Cup the highlights of his roller-coaster campaign. He had moved to The Rec shortly after Worcester’s passing and was soon off to a flying start for his new club.
Explaining his immediate impact, he said, “There was an element of desperation. I was given an opportunity and I couldn’t pass it up. That desperation; knowing that I couldn’t have had a job and some of my best friends still don’t – to be here now is pretty special.
‘I felt like moving to Bath gave me a second chance – looking at my career and what I wanted to do with it. The hunger and the motivation for me was that I want to be one of the best players in this country and this league. I’ve tried to do it this season.
“Individual awards are not something I have strived for. I’ve always wanted to be a winner, within the team. But to win the prize, my big thanks to Bath for getting me on board as quickly as they did. And also for the Worcester boys – it’s important for me to represent them. Hopefully I can play with them again someday.’
In the midst of all the turmoil early in the season, Lawrence learned to turn to others for support; particularly his partner and family, but also Anthony Watson from Leicester and England, who has been a valued source of advice and support. He also learned to appreciate what he had. “It made me realize how lucky I am to be able to do what I love every day,” said Lawrence. “So I’ll grab that with both hands and see where it takes me.”
Bath turned a corner in the closing stages of the season and it was Lawrence’s effort against Saracens last Saturday that secured their place in the Champions Cup.
The center was recalled by England during the Six Nations following his outstanding performances
After the World Cup, the West Country club will be thrilled by the arrival of Scottish magician Finn Russell and the man who will be next to him in midfield said: ‘It’s incredibly exciting. He is a generational talent. I don’t know what his defense will be like, but he’ll be great on offense!’
Great times ahead with his new club and, before that, a pre-World Cup training camp with England, where Lawrence will look to cement his place in the tournament squad and aim to make a test case to start from the Red Rose. XV.
But the bond with his former Worcester teammates remains strong, months after the club’s talented squad were forced to go their separate ways.
“We still talk quite often,” he said. ‘I’m going on a bachelorette party to Barcelona with one of the guys there. We are going with 16 people – all boys from Worcester. We have a lot of contact, which is nice. Those relationships last a lifetime.’