Waratahs enforcer Tom Robertson could be one of the most analytical Super Rugby players going around.
Name someone, let alone a 21-year-old prop, who spends multiple hours each week cutting footage, of his own volition, of opponent forward packs just so he can be as prepared as possible come game day.
Even if you can name one, they almost certainly don’t juggle studying medicine with being a full-time rugby player.
Try time: The Waratahs celebrate Tom Robertson’s try against the Highlanders.
After starting three games off the bench this season, Robertson put in an auspicious performance at tighthead for 64 minutes before coming off during his run-on debut for NSW against the Brumbies on Saturday.
“I think it was the most minutes I played in seven months … I was a bit sore Sunday morning but I’m all good now,” Robertson said. “To get the opportunity from the coaching staff was a big surprise, but I tried to take it with both hands and it worked out pretty well I thought.”
Beneath the surface of Robertson’s tough exterior – he has been one of the Waratahs’ shining lights at the scrum in recent weeks – there is more intellect than meets the eye.
Robertson is studying medicine at Sydney University, but it is his approach to perfecting his craft which he believes will set him apart from other young props in Australia.
“I’m pretty methodical with how I prepare,” Robertson said. “I always get across the detail before I get out on the field … so I’ll always know what’s going on. I cut my own clips up about what their opposition scrum does and the guy who I’m versing and what he tends to do when he’s under pressure. I’ll give that to the coaches and then they’ll give feedback. I try and knock that over on a Monday or Tuesday after a game on Saturday.
“I just like doing it more myself because that makes me feel more confident. Being a 21-year-old, you do everything you can to be the best prepared you can because it’s a big stage and we’re not really used to that yet.”
It might not be a coincidence, however, that since Robertson came into the frame the Waratahs scrum has not been the pushovers they were in the opening four rounds.
Robertson’s captain at Sydney University, former Waratahs centre Tom Carter, is expecting big things from the quietly spoken kid raised in Dubbo and schooled at St Josephs College in Hunter’s Hill.
“He is the most athletic prop we’ve ever had come through,” Carter said. “We’ve had a production line of front-rowers go and play Super Rugby, but Tommy’s the most athletic we’ve ever had. We’re talking the full gallon. He’s certainly the strongest we’ve ever had in the gym and some of his high-speed data is the best we’ve ever had for a front-rower. He’s the perfect specimen and he’s only 21. If they can physically look after him, he’s got a decade of football left in him at that level or above.”
Robertson is taking all the glowing remarks in his stride as he gets ready to embark on his overseas rugby trip to South Africa after an assignment against the Force in Perth this Saturday.
“Apart from the Dubbo Zoo, I’ve never really seen a lion or a tiger, so that’ll be pretty exciting,” Robertson said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
With four losses from their past five games, Robertson wants nothing more than for the Waratahs to turn their fortunes around.
“[Forwards coach] Cam Blades said in the meeting we can’t be content with mediocrity,” Robertson said. “Even though it’s a very good step forward, and we are improving in that area, I think there’s a long way to go.”