This professional rugby lark must seem like an absolute breeze to Alex Dombrandt.

A year ago, the Harlequins back rower was just your average beer-chugging student at Cardiff Met – with a dream of a professional contract in his future.

But fast forward 12 months, and Dombrandt’s mantelpiece is starting to groan with trophies after an outstanding breakthrough season for Quins.

The versatile back-row has scored an impressive 11 tries in 23 games for his club, and is already being talked up in some circles as a World Cup bolter for England.

After winning the club’s Players’ Player and Supporters’ Player of the season awards, the latest accolade for the youngster is a spot on the six-man league-wide shortlist for Land Rover Discovery of the Season.

And the speed of his meteoric rise from student to superstar has surprised both him and the Quins coaching staff.

“It was a bit unexpected to win those awards but I was really honoured to receive them,” he said.

“And to be nominated for another award against the calibre of these players is amazing and something I will not forget in a hurry.

“This season has gone a lot better than I expected it to, I never dreamt that I would play as many games as I have.

“At the start of the season, to be honest, I was just hoping to establish myself in the squad and earn the respect of the other players.

“I wanted to settle in quick and get my head down, work hard and grab any opportunity. And judging by the way the season has gone, that is what I have done.”

Paul Gustard’s first season at the helm has seen a huge turnaround in fortunes at the Stoop.

And no-one epitomises that revival more than Dombrandt as a young Quins team have come storming back into top-four relevance.

He added: “From myself, coming from university, the coaches were not sure what to expect. But the good thing is Guzzy gives young boys a chance and if you perform well then he will keep you in the team.

“He is not afraid to put his neck on the line and give boys a chance.

“And it helps when you have got someone like that as your coach.

“I had no idea what to expect, coming from university to the professional game.

“I knew it would be another step up and a lot harder, but I was walking into the unknown so it was as simple as me transferring the way I played at university to the professional game.

“That was the reason I was picked up so I didn’t want to go away from what got me into this position in the first place.”

The nerves kicked in ahead of his debut against Agen in the Challenge Cup off the bench.

But since then it has been plain sailing for Dombrandt – although the man himself insists he has plenty of improving still to do. 

“I was definitely nervous before my debut, I was sitting on that bench for 60 or 65 minutes and I was definitely feeling it. But once you get on and make you first tackle or carry you can settle down,” he added.

“A year ago I was watching these players on TV and idolising them. So to be training and playing shoulder to shoulder with them is a pretty crazy thing.

“To have those guys alongside me has helped me improve and made the player I am today.

“But I have a lot of things I still need to improve if I want to take it to the next level. The defensive side of my game needs work. I have always loved attacking and having the ball in my hands and probably neglected the other side of my game.

“So obviously now with Guzzy as defence coach he has highlighted specific areas I need to work on.”

Alex Dombrandt has been shortlisted for the 2018/19 Land Rover Discovery of the Season award. Land Rover is the official vehicle partner of Premiership Rugby. Follow @LandRoverRugby