Tom Robertson is heading to his first Wallabies camp this Sunday, but before he goes to the Central Coast, he has some unfinished business to tie up.
Robertson will line up for Sydney Uni in their Shute Shield grand final against Norths after being granted permission to play by Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.
It didn’t take much convincing, Uni captain Tom Carter says, with Cheika’s passion for grassroots rugby.
“Cheik’s been incredible,” he said.
“He’s genuinely passionate about grassroots and the opportunity to play in a big game.
“It’s a testament to him as a coach and a person and I can’t recollect a coach probably since Eddie Jones in 2005 where players have been released for this kind of thing, so we’re really fortunate.”
Robertson has been back in club rugby since the Waratahs season finished almost a month ago and the 21-year-old prop said packing down for Sydney Uni has kept him ready for on-field combat.
“Cheik was good enough to let me play and took up that opportunity because Sydney Uni helped my career to get where I am now so it's good to get back to my club,” he said.
“It's also good match fitness. You can do all the training you want but it's different to a game, so it's been good to keep up that match fitness too.”
Carter dubbed Robertson Sydney Uni’s ‘renaissance man”, balancing medicine studies and a rugby career.
“He’s the best athlete we’ve ever had in the 16 years I’ve been here,” he said.
“Fast, strong fit and really high workrate and obviously doing medical science and then medicine.
“I’m really happy for him - it shows that you can do it all and he’s willing to work really hard and find success academically and find success on the field.”
He doesn’t seem like a man who has strayed too far from his roots, juggling university with full-time rugby and still living at home with his parents.
The Waratahs tighthead grew up playing for the Dubbo Roos as his dad did, where local cars bore bumper stickers reading “Want to be a Wallaby? I’d rather be True Blue Roos”.
Test aspirations grew from those days, though even after impressive form in his first Super Rugby season, Robertson was adamant he would need to earn an elevation.
His probation was swift and the ex-Roo has made it through his first national cut and in contention to run out for the Wallabies in the first Bledisloe in Sydney in two weeks.
“I spoke about it earlier in the year - everyone needs to do their apprenticeship and my apprenticeship's probably been a bit short but I'm more than happy to do it and loving every second of it,” he said.
He went back to Dubbo recently, coaching local kids at the field where he started his journey, playing rugby league on Saturdays and union on Sunday.
“It's a bit of nostalgia going back there, it sort of obviously take on a different perspective, normally playing at Victoria Park no. 2 that's where I played all my footy for the Dubbo Roos,” he said.
“Then you go back there and you're coaching kids there and it's a really different feeling.”
It’s hard not to think Robertson might soon experience another sensation on that oval, returning home as a Wallaby.