Any rugby player carrying the surname Shelford is going to have a certain amount of expectation placed upon them – particularly if you happen to be the son of one of the most revered No.8s ever to wear the famous All Black shirt.
Eruera Shelford, whose father Wayne played 22 tests for New Zealand and is still held in high esteem back home, is determined to make his own mark on the game though after signing for Bedford Athletic ahead of the new season.
Having initially sought out Bedford Blues after moving over here with his girlfriend, the 27- year-old was recommended to the Ath and is now set to be featuring for them in their 2012/13 Midlands One East campaign.
“He just wants to play rugby and he just wants to be himself,” said Athletic director of rugby Val Jones. “He’s a really nice lad. He has come over to be with his girlfriend, to try and make a life for himself, and he just wants to enjoy playing rugby.
"He’s been training with us since the start of pre-season training back in June and he gets on really well with all of the lads. We have a great camaraderie here anyway and he has settled in quickly.”
Shelford senior enjoyed a memorable two-year stint just down the A428 with Northampton Saints between 1991 and 1993.
This was in the closing stages of a decorated playing career, while these are still relatively early days for Buck the Younger.
Perhaps surprisingly, given his father’s background, his first sporting love was not rugby union but athletics and basketball. Indeed, Shelford only began playing the sport four years ago.
Since then he has represented North Shore – the Devenport club where Wayne began his career – along with the Combined Services, who he played for during his time serving with the Royal New Zealand Navy.
Jones envisages Shelford junior playing in the back row for the Ath, mainly as a blindside flanker or even as a No.8. And despite being somewhat of an unknown quantity, the Blues will be keeping tabs on his progress.
He said: “We’re not really sure how good he is at the moment, but if he turns out to be a good player then that can only benefit us.
“Because of his inexperience, he’s probably not ready for Championship rugby yet. But the Blues are going to be keeping an eye on him and if he does well for us then he might not be here for long.”
Only time will tell whether Shelford can make it to that level, as Mouritz Botha did, and unfortunately he may always be burdened by comparisons to his famous parent. Whatever happens though, these are exciting times for both him and his new club.
BEDFORD Athletic players and committee members, along with the RFU, will be at the River Festival in Russell Park next Saturday and Sunday from 10am-6pm.