News & Updates

2 February 2022 • General

Former rugby star returns to his throwing roots

Former Hurricanes, Crusaders and England international rugby player Thomas Waldrom has rekindled his childhood passion for athletics by returning to the throws circle.

The 38-year-old powerhouse number eight may be best known for his accomplishments on the rugby field, but in his youth he was an athlete of some pedigree, good enough to win discus gold at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships.

And now after rugby retirement he has once more returned to athletics and is relishing his time as a competitor, coach and team manager with his connection to Lower Hutt Amateur Athletics Club (LHAAC) and the Solapower Throwing Academy.

“I always fondly recall those childhood memories of doing athletics in New Zealand,” explains Thomas. “I returned to New Zealand three years ago and once I realised the Lower Hutt club was still going, I said to my boys (Troy and Kade) to give athletics a go and, like me, they fell in love with it.

“I’ve always had that urge to one day give throwing a go again,” he says. “A few years ago, Shaka Sola had a senior meet and I had a throw, but it has really kicked on this season because I’ve started training more and really enjoyed it.”

Born and raised in the Hutt Valley, Thomas was a member of the Wainuiomata AA & HC from the age of “six or seven.” Thomas fondly recalls club nights and medal days and although he specialised as a thrower in discus, shot and hammer he was also keen on giving the sprints a go.

“I also liked to try the track events because it helped develop my speed for rugby,” he adds.

The former St Patrick’s College, Silverstream student went on to win junior boys gold medals in discus and shot at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships before in 2000 he secured discus gold and shot and hammer silver medals in his final year as a high school athlete.

Boasting a discus PB around “53 or 54m” and a shot best of 13m or 14m he had big potential, however, as a rising star on the rugby field at the age of 18 he quit athletics to focus on the 15-a-side code.

Thomas went on to enjoy a successful rugby career in both New Zealand and later England, where he won five England international caps and played in the English Premiership with Leicester and Exeter, but that passion for athletics never dwindled.

“I really like the fact athletics is an individual sport and you compete against yourself,” he says. “It is a sport which is about you and how you perform, and I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much.”

Today Thomas is back fully immersed in the sport in which his two sons, Troy, 12, and Kade, 10, are actively involved as throwers. He helps out with coaching at the Sola Power Throwing Academy – where both sons attend – and he is happy “to give back” to a sport which gave him so many cherished memories.

Yet for Thomas his re-engagement with the sport is about far more than simply coaching or playing a management role – which he did for Lower Hutt AAC at the recent North Island Colgate Games – and the 2021-2 domestic campaign has been about competing more regularly.

“This season I’ve started to throw a bit more and it has been really enjoyable,” he says. “The more you do, the better you improve, and the distances have started to come. I’ve thrown the discus 35m and I’m hoping by the time of the Wellington senior champs to have broken 40m.

“One goal would be to compete at NZ nationals, should I meet the qualifications standard, or also compete at New Zealand masters,” he says. “I’ve been competitive for so long it is hard to lose that.”

But why would Thomas encourage any athlete from any code to try their hand at athletics?

“I think it had a great competitive element because you get to push yourself against the best, but it offers many other skills as well which are so useful for other sports,” he says. “It is an individual sport but there are many other community aspects to being involved in your local club.” 

Thomas Waldron of Leicester Tigers breaks through the Sale Sharks defence during the Aviva Premiership match between Leicester Tigers and Sale Sharks at Welford Road on March 2, 2013 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)