Sherborne RFC star Tom Lawday is building a reputation in New Zealand – and is hopeful he can gain a professional contract for an ITM Cup side.
Lawday started the season playing for Sherborne, but has established himself in the Old Boys University (OBU) RFC side, a team with a proud heritage. The Wellington club has produced 29 All Blacks over the years, including Conrad Smith, Stuart Sinclair Wilson and Paul Steinmetz.
“I came across the opportunity to play for OBU through (Sherborne rugby coach) James Gower” explained Lawday. “He played for them during his gap year all those years ago and he said that I should get out of Sherborne to play. I had to take a gap year anyway so I thought I might as well go to the place where the best rugby in the world is played.
“I am loving it out here. The club culture is amazing and they have been so welcoming to me and other international players. It is such a good club to be a part of and I am proud to be one of the Fighting Billy Goats.”
Lawday has also taken part in an IRANZ High Performance Course – again thriving and has grown in confidence, believing he could go all the way and play rugby professionally.
“It was the best rugby experience I have ever had in my life” he said. “It was a three-week high intensity course with training every day as well as classroom lessons on nutrition and mental skills. We played two games against Manuwatu and Wellington Academies and I won player of the day in both of them which was an honour.
“The course has made me realise that I can be a professional rugby player and that rugby is not just about the playing – there are so many other elements that go towards it. I am in Wellington until August, but I have been tenuously linked with an ITM Cup team in Nelson. If I have a good season in the OBU Premier side, then I may be staying out here a bit longer.
“I am looking forward to coming home, obviously all my family are at home as well as my girlfriend – but if the chance of a contract comes up, then I’ll be staying out here. I still have my university place at Exeter for this September, but I will definitely be putting on the Sherborne jersey again, I just don’t know when.”
Lawday’s former coach at Gainsborough Park is thrilled the forward is doing so well and is pleased the Dorset outfit are able to push their talented youngsters onto greater things.
“We had a chat at the end of last season and we knew that it was time for him to move on” explained Gower. “We want to be a club that push our youngsters to higher things.
“Tom went out to New Zealand to play for my old club. He was initially just going for a year, but he’s exceeded all expectations and they invited him back this year. It’s now being talked about that he might get a contract over there for the Wellington Lions, which would be amazing.
“His little brother Max is captaining our Colts and is still at school. He was our stand-out player in our last game at North Dorset. The lads are already taking the mickey out of Tom saying Max is the better Lawday and they aren’t missing him.”
Sherborne host Wimborne in their last game of the season on Saturday at Gainsborough Park.