Place of Birth: Torquay
Date of Birth: 18/09/2000
Previous Clubs: Teignmouth
Representative Honours: Exeter Chiefs Academy, Exeter Braves
Best rugby memory: Playing in Japan at the Sanix World Championship for Exeter College
Sporting hero: Connor McGregor
Day job: Warehouse worker
Frankie Dart (first published December 2022)
In his regular column meeting the players, Richard Kitzinger meets up with Titans’ versatile back, Frankie Dart.
It’s been quite some day for Frankie Dart when I meet him prior to Thursday evening training just ahead of the Leeds away game. He began a new job that very morning. Not just any old job either. He’s a community rugby coach with Exeter Chiefs, going into schools to help enthuse youngsters about playing sports. The role also incorporates encouraging children to access their local sports clubs. It’s a job he has coveted for quite some time and, as he talks about it, the joy in his expression is something to behold. Over the next few minutes I learn why that is.
We rewind the clock though and talk about his rugby roots. He played in his hometown from the age of 7 at Teignmouth Rugby Club, something of a hotbed of rugby talent production in recent times with Sam and Joe Simmonds the most famous examples. Debuting in the first team at just 17, Frankie moved on to the Exeter Chiefs Academy via the hugely successful Exeter College set up. So successful, in fact, that they were invited to represent English schools in the Sanix World School Championships in Japan during his first year there.
The tour made a lasting impression on the 17 year-old Dart. His recollections of “one of the best experiences of my life” range from a ding-dong battle with the Australian representative school, some pranks played by another school side and a sobering visit to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. Quite some experience for a schoolboy.
Back in England he was made captain of Exeter College for his second year there and was loaned by Chiefs to Taunton Titans in 2019. “Pre-season was going really well for me,” he recalls, “And then in the last of those I suffered a knee injury that ruled me out for the whole season.”
He had torn the meniscus in his left knee. The wait for the operation was nine months. This was when the possibility of the Exeter Chiefs Community Coach role first came up. He was obliged to make a very difficult decision though: take the coaching job or wait for the operation in the hope of making it in top-flight rugby. He was on an apprenticeship with Exeter at the time and opted for the surgery and the playing dream. Little did he know that the wait would be so long before going under the knife – and then hot on the heels of a long spell of rehab came the enforced lay-off due to Covid-19.
So it was something of a mercy to be able to get back on the field and play a part in the National League One campaign last season. Playing on the wing or at full-back he made a big impression, coming onto the ball at pace and reading the game with notable maturity (though he concedes that the mentorship of Gary Kingdom came to the fore in that respect). It was an easy decision to travel an hour up the M5 to Taunton for his rugby as Frankie found, “the coaches so welcoming. Every training session they were praising and encouraging me.”
“Taunton’s a great club to be around. The atmosphere is great. People shake your hand and want to know how it’s going for you. And I wanted to push myself to play at a really good level. I spoke with Max Norey about it and Joe Simmonds. Joe said ‘Taunton’s a great club to go to’ and it really is. I’m learning a lot. I’ve gelled with the coaches and the physios.”
Frankie’s new job is the one that recently-retired Titans winger Aron Struminski was doing before stepping up into a management role in the Chiefs’ Community Coaching department. It’s a position that Frankie has had his eye on for quite some time and he’s had to be patient in waiting for the opportunity to present itself. The one drawback is that he will have to miss matches for Taunton when Exeter plays at home as he will be involved in the club’s Super Saturdays when rugby clubs’ junior sides come for a memorable experience at Sandy Park.
He's a young man with a good head on his shoulders. In the course of our conversation he mentions some of the people who he has looked to for guidance. They’re the right sort of people and you get the feeling that Frankie is more than capable of sifting through the advice and making his own decisions. It's a shame he won’t be able to play every week. Nonetheless, back to full fitness and with a dream job in rugby, Frankie is raring to go for Titans this term.
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 20% discount on Lasting Powers of Attorney with him. Call him on 07504 991893.