Date of Birth: 14/06/1994
Place of Birth: Exeter
Previous Clubs: Ivybridge
Representative Honours: South West Under 20s
Personal Rugby Highlight: Promotion to National League One with Taunton Titans
Sporting Hero: Tom Brady
Connor Banks (first published March 2022)
In his regular column meeting the players, Richard Kitzinger sits down with Titans’ in-form scrum half, Connor Banks.
It is often said that patience is a virtue. Connor Banks has it in abundance. My conversation with him reveals other virtues, some of which I suspect he isn’t aware he possesses.
Banks, 24, has been with Taunton for five years. At the outset in the 2017/18 season there were 20 appearances in Titans colours but it has been a long gap between drinks before his second coming. Sure, everyone had to wait for the Covid-19 break which put paid to over a season of rugby but, just as the club was gearing up for its first go at National League One, in came Sam Maunder on loan from Exeter Chiefs. There was already decent competition for the number nine shirt at Veritas Park but the arrival of the former England Under 20 captain in his position might have restricted his chances of playing.
Not so far as Connor was concerned. “When someone like Sam Maunder comes in,” he says, “If you’re not getting picked because there’s someone in front of you who is that good, well, you get on with it – that’s the way sport is really. You just want to learn from him. Not just me, everyone across the pitch can learn from guys like him and Walshy.”
“I’ve definitely picked Sam’s brain. He’s younger than me but he has experiences I don’t so it was great to ask him how he sees the game.”
Banks was born and grew up in Exeter. He still lives there and in the close season plays cricket for Ide (“right arm rubbish bowler, right hand slogger”). From the Under 7 age group he played rugby for Exeter Youth section, training at the County Ground and then Sandy Park and undertaking ball boy duties for the Premiership side. His route into rugby was through his father, Simon, who had played for Exeter in the 1980s and a major influence who coached Connor’s junior sides all through the age groups.
“I’ve still got signed match balls with Gary Kingdom and Tony Yapp’s names on from when I was a ball boy for Chiefs.”
There’s more sporting pedigree in the Banks bloodline. Grandfather Alan, a Liverpudlian born and bred and who claims to have been able to walk out of his front door on Anfield Road and be on the pitch at Anfield four minutes later. Alan Banks was good enough to play for Liverpool, an inside-forward who scored four goals in five appearances under the legendary Bill Shankly. His path to the first team blocked by the signing of Ian St John, he moved to Cambridge City and then on to Exeter City.
The proud Scouser found a new home in Devon and scored 109 goals in 285 games for the Grecians. He was voted Exeter’s all-time favourite player and still never misses a home game at St James Park. Connor himself comments, “I could be making my debut for the British and Irish Lions and Grandfather would still rather watch Exeter City.” He goes on to qualify this, saying that Alan simply loves sport and often comes to watch Titans – so long as the Grecians aren’t at home, that is.
Through his mother’s side of the family, Connor developed a love of the great outdoors. “Mum’s a country girl,” he says and attributes his enjoyment of shooting and hunting to her influence, “I probably started beating on the local shoot at the age of 8. I enjoy working with dogs and have my own now.” Since leaving Bicton College, Connor has spent his working day out of doors as a landscaper, working alongside his godfather. “It’s perfect for me. I love being outdoors. I was always an outdoor kid. Mum imposed a time curfew – I had to wait until everyone was awake before going outside to kick a ball around.”
“As a kid I’d break the satellite dish at least once a month practising my kicks. You’d hear Dad’s shout from inside that the Sky had gone off!”
So, that patience? Even when Sam Maunder was recalled to the Chiefs for whom he is now the starting scrum half, there was Lewis Webb within the club. Connor worked hard and waited for his moment. When it came he grabbed it, scoring tries and being named Titans man of the match in recent games against Blackheath and Caldy. Humble enough to ignore the fact that he had run the right supporting line to be given the pass to run in under the posts, he claims “Other guys had done all the hard work. I was just there to finish it off.”
Connor’s worth to the team has certainly been appreciated. Former Australian schoolboy international Jack Walsh who has played outside him at fly half says, “Banko’s small and aggressive, a bit like me, and he plays at pace, getting the ball quickly which suits me and my game too.”
Even when he wasn’t getting picked for the match day squad at the start of the season, Banks would still be at the ground to watch. “Yeah, I walked around, socialising,” he quips, though it’s a mark of a bloke’s class when he comes along to support despite not being selected. “Everyone in the squad’s pretty tight-knit and we want to come along and cheer the boys on.”
“I love it here, love the club, love everyone around it. Best club I’ve played for and the way it’s run with the match-days and the carvery is first-rate. It’s a great team with a great social side to it too. The coaching is amazing and who knows where we can go in the next few years?”
Richard Kitzinger is writing in our match day programmes as well as on the Taunton RFC website. Richard is a Will Writer and all club members are entitled to a 25% discount on Lasting Powers of Attorney with him. Call him on 07504 991893.