When Red Heavies fullback Tom Banks pulls on his Queensland Country jersey this weekend an incredible year of football will come full circle.
Banks’ exceptional form in the National Rugby Championship has served many spectators a generous helping of deja vu as comparisons to Wallabies legend Chris Latham continue to ring out across the competition.
Unfortunately for Banks, there were some at the QRU last year who just couldn’t see it.
Months after winning his first cap for the Reds in 2015, embattled Reds coach Richard Graham pulled Banks aside and admitted that the rumours surrounding the signing of Japanese test fullback Ayumu Goromaru were true.
“Richard called me in to his office and told me that there was a fullback coming to Ballymore and that there probably wouldn’t be a place for me at the Reds anymore,” Banks recalled.
Carrying a shoulder injury that had only just healed, Banks was exiled back into the ranks of the amateur player with a dream left hanging by a thread.
“It was devastating of course but the worst part of it was that with my injury I knew that I hadn’t been fully able to give it a crack,” Banks said.
Then just 21-years-old, Tom faced a difficult decision – to give up, or to work harder.
Meeting with University coaches Michael Heenan and Cameron McIntosh, Banks made his decision and committed to a professional-style preseason with the UQ Rugby Academy.
Fully aware that to take it easy would mean falling behind, Banks doubled-down on a training regime that kept his skills in touch with the rest of the Queensland Reds.
“I felt like I could really hone my skills at the academy which is something I probably couldn’t say about the Reds because we never practiced those,” Banks said.
“Even though the intensity of training wasn’t quite as high than at the Reds, the Academy was a great environment for me to try to step up and practice new skills and perfect some old ones.
“[Academy Coach] Cameron McIntosh is obviously a really great coach and the drills they ran at the Academy were really professional.
“With an approach tailored to my needs I really did improve on certain areas and I got to practice the skills that I might have fallen behind in, which translated directly to how quickly I was able to get going again in Premier Grade,” Banks said.
Tom shone from the back for University in 2016’s Premier Grade season, and returned to the Queensland Reds for a long-awaited second cap under new coach Nick Stiles.
“With the skills we trained at the Academy I really don’t think there’s any better way to prepare for a career in Rugby than getting involved with the UQ Rugby Academy,” Banks said.
Get in touch with UQ Rugby about a place at the UQ Rugby Academy by calling (07) 3870 2152.