Former Warwickshire seam-bowler Lee Daggett has gone on to enjoy an excellent career within sport at a high level.
Not with the Bears, it transpires. And not even in cricket. Daggett is now in rugby union as a physio at Aviva Premiersip side Northampton Saints.
But he recalls his time at Edgbaston, 2006 to 2008, as a “great grounding in professional sport” – even if it was a far-from-great time for the Bears.
“I wish I’d stayed longer,” he recalls. “It would have been nice to find out what the win bonus was!”
Actually, it wasn’t quite that bleak. In fact, Daggett collected a win bonus in only his second championship appearance, at home to Durham, thanks largely to his own skills as his second-innings six for 30 (match-figures: eight for 82) expedited a thrilling 18-run victory.
But after that things never really took off at Edgbaston for Bury-born Daggett. While the team struggled and deteriorated through 2006 and 2007, his input became increasingly sporadic. And after a loan spell with Leicestershire (financed, in part, by Bears fans who took him very much to their hearts) he moved to Northampton where his career did take flight – first in cricket as he helped Northants Steelbacks to three T20 Finals Days and then in rugby in the Saints’ back-room team.
He’d just stand there at fine-leg with his golf club and say ‘bowl fast – try and hit him on the head.Lee Daggett
“It’s funny to think it was only three years of my life because I learned an awful lot at Warwickshire,” he said. “It was a great grounding in professional sport and, in terms of cricket, the white-ball game in particular which stood me in good stead when I joined Northants.
“I loved it at Edgbaston, working with great players like Heath Streak and Dougie Brown and, latterly, Allan Donald when he became bowling coach. A.D was brilliant. When he joined I had not long had a back operation and, coming back from that, I could get a bit lost in technical matters, but he’d just stand there at fine-leg with his golf club and say ‘bowl fast – try and hit him on the head.’
“That worked for me. I got a lot of my pace back and went on to do a decent job for Northants.”
Daggett’s senior cricket career was relatively brief – 71 first-class games, 63 limited-overs matches, 56 T20s – but the 34-year-old has no complaints at all. As a youngster, he didn’t envisage any sort of a professional cricket career until Durham UCCE coach Graeme Fowler took him aside one day and suggested he might be good enough.
As it transpired, his first-class career began for the students in a friendly against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge – a match in which he was dismissed by an off-spinner by the name of Kevin Pietersen.
“I played through the age-groups for Lancashire but never really thought of it as a potential career until Graeme mentioned it” he said. “I played some first-class games for Durham UCCE and remember on my debut bowling about 29 overs, the best I ever bowled, and taking nought for plenty. I was bowling to Jason Gallian when only a few years earlier I’d been queuing at fine leg for his autograph.
“Pietersen got a ton then retired out. The whole time he was batting he was sledging us, calling tax-dodgers and the like. I guess I formed my opinion of him that day – and it has never changed!
“After uni, Warwickshire gave me a chance and I really enjoyed it but it was probably one of the worst eras in the Bears’ history. There was a lot going on in the dressing-room but I guess I was protected from it as a young gun. I didn’t really know the personal side of it or understand the huge expectations at the club. I was just out of uni and living first with Jimmy Anyon and then my girlfriend (now wife) who trained as a doctor at Heartlands. We both have really fond memories of Birmingham.”
Things have worked out really well for me and I don’t know whether I’d have been able to do it without the PCA. They gave me that crucial early help like they do so many players.Lee Daggett
Those memories stem partly from circumstances surrounding Daggett’s departure from the Bears.
“Leicestershire wanted to take me on loan,” he recalled. “But Warwickshire wouldn’t pay my wages during the loan spell and the fans got wind of that. They had a bucket collection and I don’t know how much they raised but the gesture prompted the club into action and my loan happened. It was incredible of the supporters.
“Then I went to Northamptonshire and had some great times there, especially winning the T20 amid a brilliant atmosphere at Edgbaston. But ever since my second year at Warwickshire I’d been studying to become a physio because I knew that was the direction I wanted to go in.
“The PCA was a great help. Lynsey Williams did dome digging to find the right courses for me and they helped me with course-fees and answered any questions I had. Things have worked out really well for me and I don’t know whether I’d have been able to do it without the PCA. They gave me that crucial early help like they do so many players.
“I love it at Saints. It’s a big club with a fantastic squad and I’m part of a fantastic medical team: Four physio, six strength & conditioning, a sports therapist and team doctor. It’s just a great set-up to be part of. But I’ll always have fond memories of the Bears and their supporters and will always wish them well.”
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