Tom English, a NSW Schools product and former national rugby Sevens representative, is the latest of the Sydney University alumni to make the move to Rebels ahead of season 2013, with the young outside centre joining the EPS Squad as a long-term prospect.
With both his current housemates, Angus Roberts and Nic Stirzaker, backrower Tim Davidson and Head Coach Damian Hill all graduates from that same club, English admits that knowing some of his new club mates has helped him a lot during his early time in Melbourne.
“It has been easier transitioning because of the (Sydney University) connection,” admits English.
“When it comes to moving to a new place, seeing a few familiar faces is really good. It’s easy approaching people, and they have helped me settle in Melbourne.”
Following a 2012 season ruined by injuries, English is looking forward to joining the full training squad before Christmas; not that pre-season has been easy for him while he has been in ‘team rehab’.
“Pre-season has still been pretty tough. Hilly challenges us as players, making us stand up in front of everyone and get out of our comfort zone. He encourages us to learn, and it has already been a steep learning curve,” said English.
“It’s also been tough watching the boys train, especially all the other new guys, and I’m now the last guy in rehab. But it motivates me to get back quicker and spurs me on when I will join the full training squad.”
English has been unable to get on the park for the last five months, courtesy of an injury suffered while playing in the Shute Shield, but that hasn’t been his only bad luck on the injury front in 2012.
“I was playing club rugby with Sydney Uni and in Round 8 against Penrith I ruptured my medial ligament in a tackle, so I have been out for five months with that,” said English.
“Also, when I was playing Sevens (for Australia), I tore a ligament which put me out of the final in Tokyo. We won the final, which was great, but it was a shame I didn’t get to play as that was the last game I played (for Australia).”
So does English have aspirations to return to Sevens down the track, especially with the sport being a confirmed starter for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil?
“To be honest I really couldn’t see myself going back,” explains English.
“It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my time, but it is my life goal to be a professional in the 15-man game. Sevens was a means to get there, and while I really enjoyed it, I want to make a success of my career with the Rebels now.”
And what does English make of the Rebels’ standing in the AFL stronghold that is Melbourne?
“The Rebels members that we have and the fans are really hardcore; that much is obvious!” he laughs.
“There are so many different sports to choose from and they make the decision to support rugby, so we need to look after them. With rugby being an up and coming sport in Victoria, they can help grow the game and refer members to sign up, which is awesome.”
Rebels Recruiting Manager Sam Cordingley admits the club took a punt in recruiting English, but is excited at his prospects.
“In Tom’s position there is not a great deal of depth in Australian rugby, and obviously 13 is a pretty specialist position,” explains Cordingley.
“Tom is another athletic kid with a very good history with Sevens in Australia, and we are hoping that in a full-time program he will really grow in 2013.
“It would be great for him to see some Super Rugby action, but he is coming back from injury at the moment and has to get his comeback right first and foremost. We think he is in the right environment to tick that off, and the fact that he is in a full-time program now means we expect that we will see some significant development.”
As for living with Stirzaker and Roberts, English gives just a little bit of insight into the household.
“Gussy (Roberts) and I are the chefs of the house, so Stirzy pulls his weight through a bit of cleaning and taking out the bins because he’s not too talented in the kitchen,” laughs English.
“It works really well for us.”
He might have it easy at home in regards to doing the chores, but English knows he won’t have it easy in 2013. The good news is he is ready to give it his best shot as he tries to turn his EPS squad spot into a crack at the Rebels’ match day 22.
Pete Fairbairn is a diehard Rebels fan who works within the sports industry. You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here.