Thomas Waldrom’s eye-catching displays for the Exeter Chiefs have today been rewarded after he was named the Aviva Premiership Player of the Month for November.
The 31-year-old forward, who joined the Devon club in the summer after a four-year stint with the Leicester Tigers, has enjoyed a stellar start to his Chiefs career, scoring seven tries in nine Premiership starts.
Waldrom’s on-field performances have not only helped to propel Rob Baxter’s side into the top three in the Aviva Premiership, but also to the top of both their European and LV= Cup pools, as well as a recall into Stuart Lancaster’s England squad for the recent Autumn internationals.
"I don’t think it could have gone any better than it has been so far," said Waldrom. "I’m very pleased with how things have gone, but I’m aware we’ve got some big games coming up and that we have to keep on working hard."
With league encounters at Sale Sharks and Bath, plus a New Year date with Gloucester, all on the horizon, Waldrom has praised the efforts of his team-mates and the club’s coaches in helping him pick up his second Player of the Month accolade.
"The coaches have given me a bit of a licence to go out and play, plus it’s always good to score tries," he added. “But I’m only as good as the 14 guys in front of me. Together they’ve all been doing their bit to help the team this year – and I’m just the guy who has been lucky enough to finish off the scores."
Having seen the rise of the Chiefs in recent seasons from afar, it was not until he arrived in the Westcountry that Waldrom saw at first hand the ambition and the hard work that drives the club.
"When I first spoke to Rob about coming to the club he told me I would enjoy it down here and I would enjoy the way we play," added Waldrom. "From the moment I arrived, I settled very easily. The lifestyle is very relaxing and for the kids there is lots for them to do.
"Pre-season was a bit like Super Rugby, which I’m familiar with, so it was just a case of getting on with it, enjoying it, learning things and then getting the opportunity to start the season."
And Waldrom got off to a flying start for his new club as a try double in a convincing away win at newly-promoted London Welsh on the opening day gave him the dream start.
"Just knowing you can go out and express yourself, I’m really enjoying it," he continued. "All the coaches talked about the youngsters and what they wanted to do with them, but you can definitely see the talent coming through.
"People like Sladey, Nowellsy, Dickie, Hilly and Dave, they are great rugby players and I think it’s great they are playing week in, week out and enjoying themselves. At the same time, it’s always good to have the older heads like Mummsy, Welchy, TJ and Steeno because there is a really good balance to the team."
Although the Chiefs missed out on featuring in the inaugural European Champions Cup this season, Waldrom insist the club have the personnel in place to challenge at the very top – a point emphasised with their impressive run of form this term.
"I think we are enjoying what we are doing down here and we’re trying to stamp our mark on each game," said Waldrom. "I think we’re slowing doing that, but we also want to make it hard for teams when they face us to try and get anything out of us."
With another testing Premiership block to begin again next week, Waldrom says it’s vital the Chiefs maintain their momentum during the festive period.
"We’re well aware if you are 10, 15 per cent off in the Premiership, you’ll get caught out," added the Kiwi-born forward. "That is what happened to us at Newcastle, but we know over the Christmas period that there is not so much training; the weeks are a bit shorter, so we have to do our homework beforehand to get everything right for these big games. As players, though, you want to be involved in these big games."
Certainly Waldrom’s club form has attracted the attentions of plenty across the country, including the England head coach who recalled him to his training squad for last month’s international block:
"It was nice to be back in the England mix, that dream never goes away," said Waldrom. "However, to get anywhere near that team you have to be playing well for your club side. I always said at Leicester, worry about your form here first and foremost and then England will follow.
"It’s exactly the same down here, if you’re playing well those things will happen. It’s just about kicking on; moving forward and making sure I do what I am doing and don’t let things slip.
"As a club we have set goals for 2015, but we’ll keep them in house. We know what we have to do to achieve those goals. Where we are currently in the table – we want to stay there – but it’s up to us to keep working hard in games and in training to maintain that. It’s a great challenge for us to take on over these next 12, 14 rounds."