Hicks has sights set on ITM Cup

RISING HIGH: Tom Hicks, in action for Marist in their match against Stoke on Saturday, has ambitions to represent Tasman in the ITM Cup.
RISING HIGH: Tom Hicks, in action for Marist in their match against Stoke on Saturday, has ambitions to represent Tasman in the ITM Cup.

Tom Hicks was hard to miss at Greenmeadows on Saturday.

At a conspicuous 2.03m, the 22-year-old English lock stood a good measure taller than most of his Marist team-mates and Stoke opposition. And while he was an obvious and reliable lineout target, his Tasman club debut didn't go quite to plan after Stoke scored a 22-20 upset win over the more highly-fancied Marist side.

From the Gloucester club, he had only arrived last Wednesday and was having his first run for several weeks following the end of the English club season.

"I'm well aware [Marist are] doing pretty well this season, they've got the [Nelson Bays club] semifinals coming up so obviously that was a disappointing start for my season with them," Hicks said. "But hopefully we've got a few more games where we can turn it around."

With former Tasman and Tongan international prop Sila Puafisi signing with Gloucester this season, Hicks' move to Nelson could become the start of an annual transfer of players between Gloucester and Tasman. His ultimate goal is selection in the Tasman Makos' ITM Cup squad.

"Obviously I'm here to play rugby and ultimately [Tasman selection] is what I'm aiming for."

Hicks' latest move to Nelson isn't an entirely foreign experience. He's well used to an itinerant lifestyle.

His father, James Hicks, is a major in the British army and is stationed in Gibraltar. Tom was born in Rhineland, Germany, and has lived in locations "too many to count", including Africa and Northern Ireland and "various places in England".

He's got an impressive playing pedigree, having represented England at under-18 and under-19 levels, but missed selection in their under-20 team for the 2012 Junior IRB world championships in South Africa. South Africa beat New Zealand 22-16 in that year's final to end New Zealand's run of four straight titles, England finishing seventh.

He's already under Makos' strength and conditioning coach Glenn Stewart's wing and has been given a weekly training programme to follow as he tries to increase his 112kg frame to around 115kg.

He's watched video footage of the Makos' championship-winning season last year and is well aware of what's required to be part of an ITM Cup campaign.

"It looks like a very competitive league and it's a really high standard of rugby. So obviously, that is my ultimate goal to play in the ITM Cup over here," he said.

"You guys play a different style of rugby. I think ball carrying is definitely an area of my game that I want to develop, so it's the perfect place to do it.

"It's a lot more open [in New Zealand], there's a lot more offloads in the game and watching a few Makos games and how they played last year, they play at a pretty high intensity, which is good.

"Saturday I was a bit tired but that was my first game for a few weeks, so I've got a few weeks now to sort it out."

As part of the Makos' training squad, Hicks has various options open to him. "I can play for the Tasman Griffins as well, which is also a pretty high level, so it's just kind of taking the next few weeks to see how it goes really."

The Nelson Mail