Purdham prepares for London farewell
Rob Purdham will be turning his back, not on the bright lights, but on the good life when he packs up and leaves London at the end of the year.
The Harlequins RL captain and England World Cup forward is ending his decade of service to London’s Engage Super League club and returning to his roots in Cumbria for family reasons.
Rob’s older brother Garry was among the victims of taxi driver Derrick Bird in the Cumbria shootings of June 2010 and he is going home to help his ailing father run the family business.
That will mean swapping a vegetable plot at the bottom of the garden of his house in Surbiton for a 400-acre farm in west Cumbria.
It will also mean a rise in the shopping bill of his Harlequins team-mates, who were quick to rib their captain over his attempts at self-sufficiency but not slow to take advantage.
A farmer until rugby league became his career, Purdham kept his hand in by growing his own vegetables and, with his wife Sarah, emulated another Surbiton couple, a fictitious one played by Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal in the 1970s sitcom the Good Life.
“It was filmed just two minutes from my house,” said Purdham. “The lads take the mickey out of me but they are always coming round and helping themselves.
“Luke Dorn is the worst; I have to grow the things he likes, like cucumbers.”
Sarah is currently bringing out a cookery book based on their produce, called ‘From Farm to Field’, for charity and her husband’s testimonial, which runs until March.
Purdham will be sorely missed in London - he is the club’s longest-serving player and has been their captain since 2007 - and admits he will be leaving with a heavy heart.
“It’s been a big decision for me,” he said. “London has been my home for the last 10 years.
“When we’ve been back up to Cumbria, we always say we’re going home to London. I spent 21 years up there and I do miss the countryside, especially in the summer months, but we made London our home and really enjoyed it.”
Purdham says it is now time to go home, especially with Sarah expecting their first child on Christmas Eve.
“There was a point, after Garry’s death and the funeral, when it would have been quite easy to stay in Cumbria but the family were all supportive of me continuing my rugby,” he added.
“You don’t get long to play the game - it’s not as if you can take two years out and go back to it. Also, I signed a contract and I wanted to honour it.
“I was going to sign for Harlequins again but things changed. My dad’s cancer came back and he was on about selling the farm.
“The timing is right. My wife is pregnant as well and we wanted to be close the family. We’ve missed so much over the last 10 years.”
Purdham has yet to decide whether to continue his rugby career and will take his time to ponder his future.
His local club Whitehaven, for whom he made 53 appearances from 1999-2002, would welcome him back but, at 31, he reckons he still has something to offer Super League and will not rule out joining a team in the north.
“People keep asking about that,” he said. “I’ve got to sell my house and move lock, stock and barrel to start a new life and at the moment I’m concentrating on that.
“I suppose by Christmas time, after the baby is born, I will decide whether I want to carry on playing and at what standard.
“At the start of the year I was looking to stay down here and I was going to try and get a new two-year deal. I think Harlequins would have sorted one out for me. I still feel I have something to offer the game.”
Purdham will make his farewell appearance for Harlequins in Saturday’s last match of the season against St Helens at the Twickenham Stoop and is not sure how he will handle the occasion.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” he said. “I was coming back in the car from Sunday’s game with Chad Randall and he said it would be the last away trip we’d be doing together and it started me thinking about it then.
“I’m not really an emotional person. I don’t know how it’s going to affect me.
“I think it will be next year when it will hit me, when I won’t be back with the boys for pre-season.”