Test debut to settle Robertson's doubts

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

He’s had an astronomical rise to a Wallabies jersey and a Test debut will assuage one more doubt in Tom Robertson’s mind.

Just a year ago, Robertson was signed to an extended playing squad with the Waratahs, about to embark on a medicine degree, still not sure where he could go with rugby.

He has spent this season juggling the first year of his professional career with his degree, looking in on surgeries, stitching up pig carcasses in between training and games, and once he returns from Perth, his next exam will be waiting.

Tom Robertson is looking forward to his Test debut. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyThirteen Super Rugby matches and 697 minutes later, Robertson has a new Waratahs contract and a Test call-up, his path might be a tad clearer, but there’s no sense of security just yet.

A European kiss on the cheek welcome from Drew Mitchell and the familiarity of other NSW faces made the transition easy away from the field, but that was just the beginning.

“You always have that doubt in your mind over whether you're good enough and whether you're going to actually make it or you're just going to be one of those guys that just peters out over time and had a good first season of Super Rugby and just fizzled out and never played for Wallabies or anything like that,” he said.

“It obviously comes into your mind but I guess depending on whether that happens, some of that doubt might get removed this weekend.”

The confirmation that he would be locked into the Waratahs for two more seasons was one that made everything seem more real.

Tom Robertson has settled into the Wallabies. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley“That was the first time it really hit me that this is going to be my life for the next two years,” he said.

“To know that it's my short to mid-term future's going to be pretty much based around footy is, it's different and, it's hard to explain, but it's a good feeling.”

Since his father pulled him out of U8s soccer to introduce him to the Dubbo Roos, rugby has been Robertson’s bag, but even as he made representative teams through the junior years, professionalism didn't feel like it was on the horizon.

“You always have those doubts when you're coming through the ranks and stuff [thinking], 'Oh, I'm on the bench for this game' and [people saying] ‘It's going to be a different story when you get to Super Rugby because there's so many good players and stuff like that.

“It’ll be good to get rid of all that doubt…[but] you can't really stop at one game, you want to get more and more.”

Saturday’s Argentina Test will be a baptism of fire in the scrum but Robertson has had a handy ally in Mario Ledesma.

“He said, ‘When it was a dog fight [he] knew we were going to win or we were going to come close so that's definitely something that he's said about the Argentinians.”

One thing for sure in is that Robertson will  be entirely prepared for his debut , with the prop making a habit of doing his own video analysis of opposition on top of the usual reviews.

“I find if I go and look at it and I see the trends for myself and I pick out things, might even be before the coach or after the coach has picked it out, then I find that  it resonates more with me and it allows me to know there's a purpose behind what I'm trying to do and stuff like that,” he says.

Robertson is relishing the step up in training. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyRobertson’s inclusion is a hark back to a time when the Wallabies were littered with full-time workers from all walks of life.

Wallabies captain Stephen Moore played with John Roe, the most recent Wallaby to have collected a medical degree while playing and Moore said Robertson’s dedication was something to admire.

“It's becoming rarer that type of journey,” he said.

“With medicine particularly, it's a lot of contact hours. So it's very hard to do remotely or part-time or online.

“I think it shows a bit of extra dedication that Tom's prepared to do both and do them both well.”