Rising Mansfield star signs for Nottingham
After three months with his head in the long white clouds and rubbing shoulders with New Zealand World Cup winning giants, Mansfield’s Tom Calladine has been rewarded with his first professional contract with Nottingham Rugby.
Having topped Linwood’s try scoring chart with seven tries in New Zealand’s powerful Canterbury Metropolitan competition, bosses at the Green and Whites were proven right in their decision to send the back rower on his international adventure.
Calladine and Nottingham teammate Ollie Taylor were given the chance to develop their game on the other side of the globe after impressing in the club’s run to the British and Irish Cup quarter-finals last season. And while Calladine’s Championship opportunities were limited, his form for Mansfield in National Division 3 made him impossible to ignore.
Within a week of touching down in New Zealand, Calladine had forced his way into Linwood’s starting XV and seamlessly adapted to the Kiwi’s expansive style of play.
Calladine re-joined Nottingham last week, having penned a one year deal with the club after his exotic summer exploits.
Training one-on-one with 2011 Rugby World Cup winning All Black, Owen Franks, was all part of an experience that the former young England international says has transformed him as an athlete.
“It was an amazing experience that has really brought me on as a player and improved my understanding of how the game should be played,” Calladine said.
“At Linwood I was rubbing shoulders with Owen Franks, who two weeks later was starting for the All Blacks! I was also training with Crusaders Super 15 stars Willie Heinz and Sean Maitland who are the supreme of the supreme over there.”
It wasn’t just the privilege of sharing the training paddock with some of New Zealand rugby’s biggest names which appealed to the 22-year-old, but the very culture in which he found himself immersed was an enlightening journey.
“I got a different perspective of rugby,” Calladine said.
For 15 years I’ve played the English way, which is very forward oriented, based around set pieces, scrums and line outs, whereas in New Zealand the line outs and scrums are just another way to recycle the ball. It’s how New Zealand played to win the World Cup and how they play at every level.
“It’s given me the confidence to come back here and bring that element of the game with me. I’ve still got that English grounding, but now I’ve got a New Zealand edge to go with my Mansfield heritage.”
It’s now a matter of unleashing it on England’s second tier competition.
“I’ve been working towards this since I first picked up a rugby ball,” Calladine said.
“I’ve got plenty of game time behind me in these past few months, and I’m feeling stronger and faster than ever.”