01 February 2024

Cleverley Balancing Club and Navy Rugby

Written by Olly Pinhey

Every weekend Chester prop Dom Cleverley drives five hours from his Royal Naval base in Portsmouth to Chester to play for his boyhood club.

Every weekend Chester prop Dom Cleverley drives five hours from his Royal Naval base in Portsmouth to Chester to play for his boyhood club.
Despite such a long journey and a full week of intense work in the Navy, Cleverley has been in top form this season and last week picked up the National Two player of the week award.
Cleverley set the tone for Chester in their thrilling 43-40 win over Camborne and says the secret to his success, and balancing his busy schedule, is simply loving his club and the game of rugby.
Cleverley said: “Playing rugby is something that I really enjoy doing. My partner and I have a house up in Chester, and they were really welcoming to having me back. Chester slotted in really well and it made sense as it was my childhood club that I've always had a special relationship with.”
As for the weekly five-hour journey, he added: “The more you do it, the better it gets. It sounds unbelievable, but the more you do it, it wears off."
From the age 12 to 18 Cleverley played for Chester but joined the Navy after he left school and relocated to Plymouth. He seized the opportunity to play rugby again when he had trials for Navy U23s in 2020, culminating in Cleverley captaining the team two years later to a record 44-3 win over Army U23s.
Now part of the senior Navy team with their camp restarting next week, Cleverley says his decision to join the Navy has only been beneficial to his growth as a rugby player.
“Within the Navy setup, you're in a camp for 12 to 14 weeks doing nothing but rugby, as opposed to the National Leagues, where they're getting training twice a week for an hour and a half,” he said. “The job itself has helped with my discipline and leadership, and overall really benefited my playing progression.”
Part of why Cleverley still plays rugby, though, is to unwind and escape the routines of the Navy and his daily life.
He said: “The rugby pitch is somewhere you can just go away for 80 minutes and it takes you away from whatever you might have going on. It's a good way to relieve stress in your life or a bit of anger, or if you're under pressure at work, it's something that takes your mind off it all.”
Cleverley's mind was certainly focused on nothing but rugby in the victory over Camborne, a team with a powerful pack including the second most capped Navy player ever, hooker Ben Priddey.
Cleverley added: “I'm always looking to get on the ball, get on the front foot, give us a good platform to build from. In the scrums against a big pack as a tight head, I had to have that anchor to stop any momentum they could get from set pieces.”
Few descriptions of Dom Cleverley seem more appropriate than an anchor.

Images by Jarrad Hulm, Lee Crabb and Chester RFC