“It is rare you meet someone who knows where they are going and who knows how to get the best out of you.”
Tim Davidson is a former professional Rugby Union player, with 39 Super Rugby Caps. He also captained Sydney University Football Club to eight Shute Shield titles, including six in concession, and is the most capped SUFC 1st Grade forward in the club’s history with 166 games.
“The truth is like a Lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself”. St. Augustine
I have often been asked by people who don’t know me what I think of Tom Carter. More often than not, it’s after I have listened intently to their singular experience or chance encounter with him. As I wait before I answer their question, the long pause often has the subject scrambling before I have answered. “He was the best man at my wedding and is a godfather to my kids”. I watch and listen again as their version of the experience with Tom is either retracted or further context provided to make the original story not seem as critical as first delivered. I often follow up with “have you had a beer with him” knowing the answer before I ask the question.
I don’t judge anyone, as their experience with Tom is different to mine, but I challenge them to get to know him before passing judgment. Often people dismiss this for 2 reasons. 1. Tom knows where he is going, has extremely high standards and does not compromise on reaching his goals making him an easy target and 2. He tells the truth which in today’s society is a rare gift. The problem is people don’t like the truth as it forces them to have to make a choice, that choice often involves hard work and I don’t need to bore you with what our generation and the next think of those ‘dirty’ four letter words.
Tom and I were born 3 months apart in the same country town of Young in South West NSW in 1982 – one of the worst droughts on record. Our Fathers were both Graziers and played for the Young Yabbies and our Mothers were both psychologists working for the Community Health Centre. Both the youngest member of our respective families we learnt about the trials and tribulations as most youngsters do growing up in the bush. Our paths were so similar, only separated at Primary school because our Farms were on opposite sides of Town – Tom went to Young North and I went to Young South. We played Soccer, Junior League, competed at PSSA Swimming and Athletics carnivals, went to pony camp and holidays to Wyangala Dam. Playing team sport together was such a huge part of our childhood and it was the time that we spent together that ultimately galvanised our friendship.
I am fortunate that I have known Tom for over 35 years and our friendship has stood and passed the test of time. There is nothing that he or I take offence to in our daily conversations as I know he has my best interests at heart – as I do his. There are too many times to mention where Tom has told me the truth – majority of these times it has not been what I wanted to hear but it gave me the choice. Knowing my personality like the back of his hand he knew full well that laying down the challenge would ultimately get the best out of me. But he wasn’t doing it for his benefit – he was doing it for mine. His selfless approach to our friendship and genuine care for not just mine but my wife and kid’s wellbeing is what makes our bond so special.
Often when I returned to Club Rugby after just one session Tom would take me for a meal away from the team and break the news. “You’re not fit enough – you’re probably 6-8 weeks away” My heart would sink as I knew what the next 6-8 weeks entailed but more over if I was honest with myself I knew he was right. Tom’s greatest strength was to then meticulously plan those 6-8 weeks down to the minute to ensure the maximum results could be achieved. He would be at every session providing feedback on where I was at and helping me to be better. In the darkest of hours it was his encouragement and motivation “keep going mate, you will come out the other side” that kept me on task, and the results followed.
Now I know Tom is not everyone’s cup of tea. His standards, intellect and competitive drive is unrivalled and often polarises those on face value who either encountered him on the playing field or who have watched him compete from afar in the stands. I often say to Tom it is not what he says, it’s how he says it that causes people to misunderstand him. If only they took the time to truly understand where the flame that ignites the drive has come from, or ask questions to try to understand what walking a mile in Tom’s shoes looks like – I guarantee you they would not be disappointed.
Now I’ll be honest there have been times where I have asked a referee tongue in cheek to send Tom off the field to give us all a break, puzzling the referee and the opposition, however I am fortunate that I am one of the only people in the universe that he listens to. He knows my stare and we can sometimes say more to each other without saying anything at all. Tom has enough self-awareness to know when he has pushed the boundary too far. He just has a unique ability to teeter on the edge, which if you didn’t know him well enough could potentially drive you up the wall.
What has created the drive? Well I was a witness to the environment that Tom grew up in and he had to fight for everything. I was there on his front lawn when his 2 older brothers Chuck and Ed put up inch perfect bombs to Tom and one would run through and smash him when he caught the ball. I was there when his Dad dropped him at the mailbox, which was 4km from the homestead, and told him to run home because he wasn’t fit enough. I was there when we played endless hours of spotlight with our older siblings at night, and somehow Tom and I would always have the torch. This environment taught Tom to fight and scrap tooth and nail for every inch of ground. It taught him to win. But most importantly it taught him if you want anything in this life you have to work hard for it.
His drive was hands down the underlying reason for why we were successful at Sydney University for so long. Without it we would not have soared at the heights nor stayed at the top. He was always planning on how we could stay one step ahead, always working on what our point of difference would be. Tom squeezed every ounce out of his ability and physically took himself to another level to ensure he could always perform his job for the team. His preparation was without fail repeated week in week out, with the same detailed analysis, research and understanding of the opposition which enabled his teammates to also prepare accordingly. He was the type of player you loved to play with and hated to play against. I was just lucky I got to share the majority of my career with him, I never ever had to motivate him, never ever questioned if he had prepared properly and the result was that in the thick of battle there was no one else you would rather have by your side.
However, his biggest attribute that cannot be measured on any scoreboard or analysed in a test was the time he spent investing in others off the field. Whether it be organising a colt tutoring, a new player a job, paying out of his own pocket for teammates to attend Physio or Pilates, checking on players who had lost a family member, his pastoral care and genuine concern for everyone’s welfare other than his own was incredible and there are countless players – myself included who would not be in the position they are in now without his help. I guarantee there is not one player at SUFC in the last 18 years that Tom has not done something for without asking for anything in return. It is this approach that genuinely makes me believe Tom will change sport in this country, and if you’re lucky to have received his services I offer you this advice – ensure you listen carefully and follow his instruction with the same dedication and devotion he has shown in developing the training program provided for you. It is rare you meet someone who knows where they are going and who knows how to get the best out of you.
Since late 2017 I have been running on and off with the Human Performance running group 2-3 mornings a week. There is a diverse mix of all ages and abilities which makes the class fun and competitive. It is a great opportunity to catch up with some old friends and make new ones. The banter ensures you stay on your toes and the coffee after makes for the perfect start to the day. I will forever be in Tom’s debt for refocusing my attention on my health and for telling me the truth – I think the older I get the further 6-8 weeks appears to be away but I know Tom will be there to guide me through – just as he always has been. And right on cue roughly 3 weeks ago Tom told me the truth again. Time had finally caught up with me, I was unfit, out of shape and on an unchartered crash course caused by a busy but inexcusable sedentary lifestyle. However Tom’s concern wasn’t for now – he was looking ahead to when I am mid 40s and is generally concerned that if I do not change my lifestyle and habits now I will become another statistic. I can’t argue with him – he has shown me the literature, he has shown me the evidence as he always has. Unbelievably well researched and versed in all sports science subject matter he is calm when he discusses the information with me because he knows he is right. I can’t argue with him – he gives me the same old smile and then I hear those words again… “Your 6-8 weeks away…