When Havant Rugby Football Club flyhalf Tom Gwyther finished his senior year in the UK he knew he needed an adventure before beginning his studies at the University of Kent.
Tom reached out to Sports Lived, a UK-based company that specialises in providing talented young athletes opportunities to play and coach various sports on Gap Year programs overseas.
A passionate Rugby Union player, Tom decided that the UQ Rugby Academy in Brisbane was the best place available for him to develop his rugby skills.
Starting the season in Colts II, Tom rapidly ascended the ranks of the Red Heavies U19s to finish the season in the defending champion Premier Colts team.
Starting the season in Colts II, Tom rapidly ascended the ranks of the Red Heavies U19s to finish the season in the defending champion Premier Colts team and took home the coveted Most Improved Colt Award (Duncan Kemp Memorial Trophy).
According to Tom, his time at the Academy was the reason why.
“I’ve played Rugby since I was a kid back at home but I’ve undoubtedly grown the most as a player since coming to Australia,” Tom said.
“When I first came over here there were so many weaknesses in my game, but since my time with Macka and Chater and Brendan at the UQ Rugby Academy I feel like I’ve improved so much as a player and I owe a lot to those guys for making me the player I am today.
“Each session at the academy was tailored to my goals and needs specifically, whether it was with Brendan in the gym or kicking balls with Macka for an hour off each foot.
“There’s a huge difference in Rugby cultures between England and Australia, most noticeably in that the speed of play over here is so much faster so you’ve got to be in much better shape.
“For six months I trained on my catch-pass, dominant tackling and kicking, and my gym numbers went up by 10-15% on all the major lifts.
“I didn’t so much notice the improvements I was making as a player early in the season but by the end at Premier Colts I really did feel I belonged at that level,” Tom recalled.
Fitting in to an Australian style team also proved challenging for the young Englishman, though it also proved a rewarding one.
“In England the weather obviously forces lots of games to be quite attritional, quite tactical, so it can be quite a shock to the system playing on hard tracks and the sunshine in Brisbane.
“Here you’re encouraged to try run the ball back from anywhere and the skill levels of all players from the props to the outside backs is much higher.
“That puts pressure on you to lift your game to match, because if you drop the ball you know the other team will be just as capable of capitalising on the error as your teammates are.”
Due to return to the UK last month, Tom has instead submitted a transfer request to Griffith University and postponed his return indefinitely.
Tom intends to keep up his work at the Academy for another year as he looks to make his mark on the Red Heavies grade rugby scene in 2017.
Get in touch with UQ Rugby about a place at the UQ Rugby Academy by calling (07) 3870 2152.