This week's Player Spotlight shines on the current squads final '100' Club member, Ben Stanley.
As the oldest of the Stanley brothers that have played at Thurrock, Ben made his 1st XV debut back in January 2007 as an 18 year old winger against St Albans. Over the years, Ben has gone on to play in every position in the back line proving his versatility.
Ben first started playing at Thurrock in 1996 as an 8 year old in the same age group as former 1st team player Ben Timson. Ben's age group were relatively successful, reaching various Essex Cup finals before finally winning it as Colts in 2007 alongside other 1st team players, Dan Carey & Charlie Russo.
It was whilst a colt, that Ben was selected alongside a few other Thurrock players to join the Bedford Blues Academy. Ben spent 3 years at Bedford and was apart of the squad that won the National Colts Cup in 2007 alongside current England international, Courtney Lawes. Unfortunately, Ben was faced with a decision to choose between playing for Bedford in the National cup or Thurrock in the Essex Cup. Having grown up a Thurrock player and always dreaming to play for the 1st XV, Ben chose to play for Thurrock and the rest is history as they won the Cup. Ben also went on to play for the 1st XV in their Senior Essex Cup defeat to Southend in the same season.
Ben's first full season in the 1st XV was blighted with injury, making only a handful of appearances as the side were relegated from London 2 North.
Dave Pavitt soon took over as Director of Rugby with coaches Jamie Daisley & Butch Wilkins as the young Thurrock team looked to bounce back. The young team held their own but just missed out on promotion in 2008-2009 with Stanley winning the Player of the Season award.
The 2009-2010 season would bring great success for Ben and Thurrock as the team went through the campaign winning every game but 1 to gain promotion back to London 1 North. They would also win the Essex Cup, beating Romford in the final.
The team stabilised themselves in London 1 North in their 1st season before dominating it the next in 2011-2012. Ben was joined at Thurrock by younger brother Mike as the side again went through the campaign only losing 1 match. Ben would have his best season as he contributed 12 tries. The 2012-2013 started with defeat to Gravesend with Ts playing National League Rugby for the first time in over a decade. This would be Stanley's final game for a few seasons as he took a break from the game to concentrate on work and his young family.
Ben would return towards Christmas in the 2015-2016 season making 1 appearance away to North Walsham before another break.
Ben returned once again during pre-season at the beginning of the 2017-2018 as he looked to make up for lost time. Having played a handful of games for the 2nd XV, Ben was soon back in the 1st XV as he made his 1st start in over 5 years at home to Chobham. It was to be a tough season as Thurrock narrowly avoided relegation but one that Stanley thoroughly enjoyed "
"Obviously last season was tough results wise, but the way the boys all pulled together considering we didn't have a coach for most of it showed the character within the squad. I think going through that brought us closer together and helped set us up for a good run this season."
"Massive highlights for me during my time at Thurrock are obviously the 2 league wins as they were great seasons but also personally being able to play alongside both of my little brothers at separate times. I know it will be tough, but would love to play a game with all 3 of us in the team at some point".
Ben is now moving towards the end of his playing days as he looks to focus more on coaching and help bring through the next generation of Thurrock Stanley's:
"I've loved every minute playing for Thurrock, obviously I will probably always regret taking such a big break, but it was one I thought I needed to at the time. I'm enjoying my time coaching the kids as my boys are both starting to play now and can't wait to help the future players of Thurrock."
With over 150 caps for T's and having only turned 30 last year, Ben will hopefully have a few years left before he hangs up his boots for good.