SAM TOMKINS may have been preparing a very different sporting arena than Old Trafford had he not opted to be a rugby league star – a golf course.
Now he is getting ready to create a bit of history as he looks to inspire Catalans Dragons to Grand Final glory.
And he is loving being able to go shopping in the south of France without being pestered constantly, which he was when he played at home town Wigan.
Tomkins is now a two-time winner of the Steve Prescott Man of Steel honour after helping the Dragons to their first Grand Final, and he is looking back as the end of his playing days is in sight.
Had things been different, his days may be spent mowing grass at Ashton-In-Makerfield Golf Club instead of aiming for his fourth Super League title.
Tomkins said: “I have those thoughts quite a lot now. I’m not as young as I used to be.
“There have been a few pivotal moments in my career, even before it started really. It was, ‘Do this or that,’ and if all those decisions hadn’t aligned the way they did, I’d have led a very different life or done a different thing for a living.
“Things happened before I started playing about which I think, ‘If that had gone just the other way, none of this would’ve been possible.’
“When I was cutting the greens all those years ago, I didn’t imagine this. I went there doing work experience.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do but my uncle used to sell products to a golf club. He said, ‘I know this golf course that will let you cut the grass for two weeks for £100.’
“You weren’t supposed to get paid, so I was like, ‘I’d do anything for 100 quid!’ When it came to leaving school 12 months later, I always wanted to play rugby league, I didn’t want to cut grass all my life but I enjoyed it and it paid all right, so I took on a greenkeeping apprenticeship and loved it.”
Fast forward 17 years and Tomkins is looking to create history but the mood in and around Perpignan is very different to what he experienced in Wigan – he would not have it any other way.
Tomkins, 32, added: “I had a conversation with one of the board members the other day. He said, ‘Has it been crazy with everyone wanting to speak to you about the final?’
“I said, ‘You want to see it in Wigan, if you’ve got a Grand Final coming up, try and go to Tesco that week – it’s not happening. You’re not getting your milk, you’re just getting hammered off everyone.’
“There’s be friends for tickets, people you’ve not spoken to since school saying, ‘Hiya mate, how’s things? By the way, can I have 12 tickets and 15 shirts?’ You get all that, I get none of that here.
“The neighbours just say, ‘Good luck this week, I’m really excited. I hope you can do it.’ It’s completely different to what I’ve ever had.”
One pressure Tomkins does have, though, is the pressure to speak French when he is away from the rugby pitch.
Eldest sons Rex and Caine are much better than he is and he feels for wife Charlotte.
He continued: “In terms of off-field pressure, now I’m like, ‘I’ve finished training and I’ve got to go the bank. How do I ask for this?’
“Because my French isn’t good enough my brain’s constantly working. You’re always on. When I’m at home talking Wiganese, that’s when I get a real break.
“My eldest lad, Rex, is really good. It’s my wife that can’t pick it up, my five-year-old’s constantly giving her lessons but she’s got it far more difficult than me!”
FOR TICKETS and information on the Grand Final go to www.superleague.co.uk
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