The Wallabies have named a University student in their squad to face the All Blacks in the first Bledisloe Cup Test on Saturday night.
On Saturday night Tom Robertson will pack down for the Wallabies against the most dominant forward pack in world Rugby – the New Zealand All Blacks. Earlier this year, he was a student at Sydney Medical School.
Born in Wellington in country New South Wales, he grew up with an interest in the human body and a passion for rugby, beginning his sporting career playing for the Dubbo Kangaroos before heading to Sydney.
2016 was a break out year for the boy from the bush, both on and off the field. He went from bench prop at the Waratahs to a Wallabies spring tour at the end of the year. In the classroom, he began his first year of a medical degree, having completed a health sciences course in 2015.
As most professional athletes can attest, balancing a full time study alongside a career requires organisation and a strong work ethic.
“I wouldn’t say it’s easy by any stretch but I enjoy playing rugby and I enjoy learning about the human body,” Mr Robertson says. “Because it doesn’t feel like a chore, that makes it easier. I’ve also got plenty of support from the Waratahs and Wallabies and from the University of Sydney.
“I had my doubts at the start. I got my Waratahs contract around the same time the offers for medicine came out and I was thinking I was going to have to defer the degree. But I had a few really good mentors at Sydney Uni (Rugby Club) and they said anything is possible as long as you work hard and you’re straightforward.”
For Robertson, his choice of degree was obvious. He’d always been fascinated by the human body and a medical degree gave him the opportunity to pursue that interest.
The University’s support structures to assist his budding rugby career was also a deciding factor.
“Sydney had a good deferral program if I needed to use it and networks to support me while studying and playing. It also has the reputation for the best medical degree in the country so it was definitely the right choice for me.”
After making his debut and playing 13 matches in the 2016 Super Rugby season, Tom Robertson’s career continued to take off with Australian Wallabies coach Michael Cheika selecting him for an extended squad touring Europe during November and December 2016.
“Michael brought me into the extended squad and obviously liked what I was doing at training. Alan Alaalatoa got injured off the bench and I got my opportunity. Looking back, it was a bit of luck, a lot of hard work but I’ve got no regrets and it was a great year for me personally.”
His hard work paid off in 2017 when he was named in the starting side for the Wallabies in their June Test match against Fiji. Since then he’s remained in the Wallabies squad and has been named in the squad for his first Bledisloe Cup match on Saturday 19 August. Long term, he’d like to leave a legacy he can be proud of.
“I looked up to guys like John Eales who won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999 so I’d be happy to have a career half as successful as that. I want to leave good memories at the Waratahs and at the Wallabies. They always say in the teams I’ve played in that you’ve got to leave the jersey in a better place than when you picked it up, so that’s what I’m aiming for.”
With his Rugby career having taken off faster than expected, Mr Robertson has taken up an option to defer his medical studies until 2020, but in the mean-time he has decided to undertake a Masters of Public Health.