Just before his 14th birthday, Brett Connon had already shown enough cricketing ability to make his debut for Carlisle Cricket Club’s first-team. But, now nearly a decade on, it’s rugby union which dominates Connon’s day-to-day life.

Multi-talented Brett started both his rugby career and his cricketing one, which saw him play alongside the likes of current Carlisle Cricket Club captain Marc Brown, Alex Raybould and returning club professional Michael Slack for the first-team, in his home city before he joined Newcastle Falcons’ Academy when he was 15.

“I played for Newcastle’s Academy until I was 18 [after] playing for my school [Austin Friars] and Carlisle,” Brett, now 22, explains of his club rugby journey to date, having signed a new two-year contract with Falcons today. 

“From there, I played a year for Tynedale seniors in National One. From there, I went into the full-time set-up with Newcastle where I have been dotted about a bit on dual-reg – from Blaydon to Darlington and Doncaster for a few games, just trying to pick up as much experience as possible for the games I get to play for Newcastle. 

“A couple of years ago, I played a few games, more in the full-back area, in the European [Challenge Cup] stuff against Ospreys and teams like that. From there, I have been trying to get myself in that first-team squad as much as possible.”

While Brett, who struck the decisive penalty in Falcons’ 20-19 victory at Wasps earlier this month, believes many will regard this term as a breakthrough season for him, he can still find it a challenge to get his parents to come to watch him play. Instead, they often head to Warwick Road to watch Brett’s brothers, Grant and Max, play for Carlisle.

“My parents watch them quite often because there is two of them there at Carlisle and they live in Carlisle. I think they’ve taken in their fair share of games this season,” he admits. 

“I always try to give my brothers a message in the morning if they are both playing. It’s a case of all three of us saying ‘Good luck’ to each other. 

“Then, as soon as we are off the pitch, I’m looking to see how they have done. It’s been a great year for them. I’m good friends with [player-coach] Matty Shields and all the rest of the Carlisle boys. It’s great they are doing so well, and with my two brothers being there, I’ll always keep an eye on how things are going.

"Carlisle should be going up. They are my home club, so I hope they go up and it looks like they have a very good chance and, next year, hopefully they will do well again.”

On the friendly family rivalry, Brett, who played for Ireland Under-20s in the Junior World Championship final in 2016, qualifying for Ireland through his father, adds: “I’m not a try-scorer in any right, so they definitely have me on that!

"They give me a bit of craic and things like that. I got back recently to watch them play and gave them a bit of a dig after the game. 

“If there was anything they did wrong, I pointed it out, just as they point out the things I do wrong when they get to watch me. So, there’s a bit of craic here and there. You can’t slip up without it being seen unfortunately, so I have to try and be squeaky clean.”

Brett is one of a host of Cumbrians in the Newcastle contingent which is led by Mark Wilson who captained the side in Saturday’s 22-17 success over Sale Sharks at St James’ Park, while Brett was an unused replacement.

“Every Cumbrian now going through age grade, I think they are looking up to him,” says Brett on the former Penrith Rugby Club junior who was heavily involved in England’s Six Nations campaign.

“The way he has been for the last 5-10 years, I think Mark is someone who every young player should look at. His work ethic, just grinding everything week in, week out, [and] he is one of the nicest guys on and off the pitch. 

“He is now finally getting a bit more focus from England. Newcastle have known for years that he is a world-class player, and he is one of the most crucial players within the team. Having someone like that is massive for Cumbrian rugby and Northern rugby in general.

"It might have taken him a bit longer than he wants to, but he is reaping the rewards now from all that hard work and dedication.”

The win against Sale in front of more than 27,000 fans at Newcastle United’s stadium was Falcons’ third successive Gallagher Premiership victory. That run has helped to lift the basement boys to within three of Worcester Warriors. Fly-half Brett is upbeat.

“For us, Newcastle has never been that kind of club. I started here in around 2014 or 2015, but I don’t think we have ever had that outlook that we are a bottom side or a bottom-half of the table team,” he insists. 

“So for people like myself and Adam Radwan coming through, we are coming into a confident set-up.”

Connon has now made 16 first-team appearances for Newcastle and is clearly impressing the club's hierarchy.

With Connon penning a new contract at Kingston Park, director of rugby Dean Richards told the club's website: “Brett has shown great maturity and ability this season in coping with some really high-pressure situations.

“He hit the winning penalty with the last kick away to Wasps a few weeks ago, he struck a really important long-range penalty in our away win over Northampton and he dealt with the occasion very well during his Champions Cup start up at Edinburgh.

“He is a very level-headed player with a huge amount of ability, and it’s always nice to see our academy players coming through and thriving on the big stage.”