Talented teenager Adel Al Hendi admits he hasn’t looked back since plucking up the courage to ask Abu Dhabi Harlequins head coach Jeremy Manning for more playing opportunities.
That was in pre-season and the Emirati, who quickly slips into a Welsh accent when you speak to him, has since played all but one of Quins’ Sport360° UAE Premiership games.
Al Hendi, who has an Emirati father and Welsh mother, only missed the Dubai Exiles game because he was away on international sevens duty with the UAE.
The 19 year old won the young Emirati Player of the Year honour at the UAE Rugby Player Awards in April and admits he has been “living the dream” over the last six months.
The youngster only started playing rugby seriously aged 15 but made Quins’ second team at 17.
It’s been a break-out campaign for him so far, as well as a raft of fellow young players who have really rejuvenated Quins after losing their opening two games.
“The young lads were just told to go for it,” said Al Hendi.
“Jeremy backed us and lots of the senior players encouraged us, like Ben Bolger and Phil Abraham.
“Iziq (Foa’i) is a brilliant player and it’s great having him and Mac (Mcmillan Mescudi) around.
“I’ve been playing with those two for a few years and, along with Matt Hawley this season, we’ve got real chemistry.”
Despite his tender years, Al Hendi said he was not afraid to approach his coach.
“I made my intentions clear in pre-season. I wanted to step up and make my mark. I had a chat with Jeremy and told him I wanted to focus on 15-a-side rugby and it’s been a big thing for me to receive Jeremy’s advice,” he said.
“He’s very open, has helped me in training and been looking out for me ever since.”
At the moment, it doesn’t look like Al Hendi will play in Friday’s UAE Premiership final against Dubai Hurricanes as he will be on sevens duty with the UAE.
“It’s unfortunate, but the final will be a chance for the youngsters to prove that Jeremy was right to give us our chance,” added the teen.
The youngster is ambitious yet grounded when he talks about his future. “I’m living the dream at the moment. After winning Emirati Young Player award last year, people might say my next target is to win best Emirati Player [award], but honestly I want to be the top overall UAE player. I’m not saying I’m going to win it but I’m aiming as high as possible.”
The Abu Dhabi Men’s College student is also thinking about his future, currently in the second year of a business degree.
He said: “I have to have a backup plan, I’ve been told this from a young age. Rugby’s my life but I’ve got to make mum and dad happy too.”
Al Hendi is also keen to point out that he will go straight into his nine-month national service after he completes his degree.
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