LONDON Irish prop Tom Court has been there and done it in the sport of rugby, but he admits it could have been a completely different story.
As he continues his Aviva Premiership Rugby season with London Irish, at the age of 34 Court can look back on an illustrious career already.
Growing up in Brisbane, Court has now played in Australia, Ireland and England as well as racking up 32 Ireland caps and featuring on the 2013 British & Irish Lions tour.
But his first foray into rugby was somewhat fortuitous as he only took up the sport in 2004 in order to lose weight after excelling as a shot putter and being crowned Australian University Champion for three years running. Court also had Olympic trials in 2002 for shot putting but the Exile insists he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I didn’t actually play my first game of rugby until I was 24 as I had specialised in athletics and rowing through to the end of high school,” said Court, who’s interview was part of a new campaign from Premiership Rugby and Aviva to welcome new supporters to Aviva Premiership Rugby this season.
Court is part of an illustrious group of current players – including Chris Robshaw, Courtney Lawes, Danny Cipriani and James Haskwell – to back the Aviva Premiership Rugby First Timers campaign which has been a roaring success with more than 14,000 applications.
“I guess I had the underlying strength and power base, we did a lot of lifting with shot put and a lot of short sprints and jumps and it was just learning how to play,” he added.
“My Ireland debut was against Italy in the Six Nations in 2009. That was obviously one of the highlights of my career and it is hard to put into words the feeling of running out for your first international cap. I was very lucky as that year we won the Grand Slam.
“It was very strange getting invited to come down and play for the Lions as I was assuming the phone call from Guy Richardson was a prank call and then realising that it wasn’t was great.
“Just seeing all those world class guys together in one team and everyone being so nice and friendly and welcoming to you, it is almost scary in a way because it is one of those things where the actual pinnacle is to play for the Lions.”
Court’s career now sees him strutting his stuff in Aviva Premiership Rugby and the prop is urging as many people as possible to get involved in the competition – in any way, shape or form.
“Rugby union is one of those games that there is a place for everyone, every shape or size, every ability,” Court said.
“You can see the same interpretation of the same event happening on the pitch and you can have one fan screaming yes and one fan screaming no and they will both be right.
“There is so much happening on the pitch that it is never too late to get started really so there is always something for everyone in a game of rugby.”
The Aviva Premiership Rugby First Timers programme will give away almost 2,000 free tickets for every game in the first seven rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, from the start of the season right up to Christmas.
Fans are encouraged to tell their friends and family who have never been to an Aviva Premiership Rugby fixture to visit www.premiershiprugby.com/avivafirsttimers now to apply for free tickets.