Thomas Waldrom, centre, playing for Exeter. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

TIMES-AGE SPORTS AWARDS

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

“Thomas the Tank” is charging towards the Wairarapa Times-Age Sports Awards.

Former England rugby international and Wellington Lions’ cult hero Thomas Waldrom will be the guest speaker at next Wednesday’s awards ceremony at Copthorne Solway Park.

Waldrom started his provincial rugby career for the Wellington Lions in 2001.

The loose forward quickly earned cult status among the capital’s rugby fans, gaining his nickname from the famous children’s book and television character for his size, strength and bullocking runs, and his giving an arm gesture as if blowing a train engine’s horn when scoring a try.

He went on to play 80 games for the Lions and then played 14 games over two seasons for Hawke’s Bay.

Waldrom made his debut for the Hurricanes against the Stormers in 2004.

He played 30 games for the Hurricanes, before moving to the Crusaders and playing 26 games over two seasons.

Ignored by the All Black selectors, Waldrom joined English champions Leicester Tigers and quickly became a fan favourite.

He went on to play 78 games and scored 17 tries over four seasons for the Tigers, winning the first of his two English Premiership titles in 2013.

His form earned Waldrom an England call-up, qualifying through his English-born grandmother.

In 2011, he was named in England’s 45-man training squad for the World Cup in New Zealand.

Waldrom was cut from the final 30-man squad but he later came in as an injury replacement during the tournament’s pool stages, although he never made it onto the field.

Waldrom finally make his international debut in 2012 against South Africa.

In all, he made four appearances for England, the last against Ireland at Lansdowne Rd in 2013.

In early 2014, Waldrom signed with the Exeter Chiefs on a three-year contract, later extended to a fourth year.

Exeter went on to win the English Premiership in 2017, which was the first in the club’s history.

Waldrom finished as the Premiership’s highest try-scorer in the 2014-15 season with 17 tries and then a remarkable 19 tries in 2015-16.

After eight years in England, ‘Thomas the Tank’ returned to New Zealand and finished his rugby career playing for Wellington in the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup.

His professional career came to an end after the Lions lost to Auckland in their semifinal.

As a teenager, Waldrom specialised in throwing events, setting several club and school records for the discus, shot put and hammer.

He is the younger brother of former All Black and All Black Sevens’ player, Scott Waldrom.