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Tight-head prop Tom McCrone still enjoying the underdog tag at Bishop's Stortford in National League 1

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Being at the front of the scrum, Tom McCrone is well used to being up for a battle.

The tight-head prop, who can also operate at loose-head, was part of the Bishop's Stortford squad that achieved promotion to National League 1 for the first time back in 2017.

And the 28-year-old is still relishing the fight as the Silver Leys side regularly upset so-called bigger clubs with bigger resources.

"To be fair, ever since I've played for the first team, even though when we were in National 2 we were always in the top three, I've always felt we were punching above our weight," said McCrone.

"Not necessarily on the pitch, but off the pitch. We were always playing sides we knew were better financially backed and some sides would change every year or get ex-pros in.

"We were fortunate we had a steady group of local lads and could get a few other guys in which was really useful.

Tom McCrone (50794959)
Tom McCrone (50794959)

"I think at this level we're always going to enjoy punching above our weight. We like going to clubs who are financially backed and having that underdog mentality – I think it brings out the best in us."

McCrone, who went to the Bishop's Stortford High School, first played for Stortford at under-13s before returning to the club to win the National Cup with the under-17s and the National Plate with the colts.

Having made his first-team debut at the age of 19, the long-serving forward is now one of the more experienced players in the squad.

"When I first came in I was one of the younger players and you're looking up to those senior players, who aren't now playing, like Mark McCraith, Tom [Coleman] and Marcus [Cattell]," said McCrone, who is sponsored by Hertfordshire Display plc.

"Seeing them retire means players like me move up a rank, as such. Along with Sam Winter and a couple of others I'm one of the oldest in the squad now.

"We set our standards and we try to get the guys who come in to buy into our culture. It's about hard work but also enjoyment.

"We won't shy away from telling people if they need to buy into it more. We encourage people to buy into nights like the sponsors' night because if it wasn't for our sponsors we wouldn't be where we are at the moment.

Tom McCrone (50794957)
Tom McCrone (50794957)

"Even things like after a game on a Saturday just sticking around for a beer with the sponsors and the blazers really goes a long way."

As well as the vital generosity and loyalty of their sponsors, McCrone believes the club's ethos of giving youth a chance and promoting from within is another key factor in their success.

And he feels having a great team spirit means new signings who may be new to the area can fit in quickly.

"It helps massively having a lot of homegrown players. I'm playing with my best mates so you know you can look over your shoulder and see lads you've grown up with and played years of rugby with," said McCrone.

"It also makes it easier for guys coming into the group knowing there's a tight bond. We'll welcome people in no matter where they're from or where they played before."

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