10 Sep 2020

Tom Davies: Dragons move, lockdown and injury troubles

Tom Davies speaks to Oli Lathrope from super.league.co.uk and opens up on lockdown, his injury problems and moving to Catalans Dragons.

I know this will not be the same for everyone, but lockdown came at almost the perfect time for me.

For some people, that probably comes as a surprise to hear considering I’d not played for 16 months – but I was way off the mark from where I needed to be in terms of playing at a professional level back in March. 

Despite having done some training, my preparation wasn’t nearly good enough.  

Lockdown gave me an opportunity to change things and ensure I was good to go whenever Super League restarted again. 

As I knew I was that much further behind everyone else, lockdown allowed me to go out every day and do my own training. 

The lockdown rules in France actually suited me – it was tailor made to my fitness.

Initially, I took some weights home from the club and used them in my front garden. Because the lockdown in France was so strict, I wasn’t able to do much else. 

We weren’t allowed to leave our houses – which allowed me to just focus on building up the strength in my ankle.  

After a few weeks, the lockdown got eased a little bit, so I was able to go running 1km from my house and develop my ankle a little bit more.

As time went on, the restrictions were lifted, and everything started to fall into place. 

'The first night was tough – I spent most of it staring at the ceiling thinking my career was over'

Looking back to when I got injured, I don’t think I realised the extent of it straight away. 

The whole experience was, and remains, a bit of a blur. 

To start with, I felt like I had sprained my foot, as it went a bit numb.

They put me on gas and air, and I cannot remember much after that, not at least until I got to the hospital. 

When I arrived at the hospital, a junior doctor told me that I had snapped by tibula and fibula and dislocated my ankle.

I knew my season was over, but my immediate concern was my longer-term prospects.

They told me that I might not be able to run as fast and jump as high which - as a winger – is not what you want to hear.

The first night was tough: I spent most of it staring at the ceiling thinking my career was over.

But things improved the next day. 

At about 6am the next morning, the specialist came through and explained they could treat my leg.

I would describe that moment as going from the ‘doghouse to the penthouse'; I was overwhelmed with relief.

Shaun Wane even left me a message wishing me the best of luck, which was a nice touch.

'For some people it’s just a game, but it means everything to us players'

You need to be tough to get through such a long injury layoff. 

Because you are going through most of it on your own, it’s a very difficult place to be in. 

For some people it's just a game, but it means everything to us players.

I was so used to having the weekly high of playing each week that, watching from the stands, I felt a bit useless. 

While the lads were playing, I was just doing bike sessions and weights and not really able to interact with anyone. 

It’s the same routine day in day out: you come in, do your rehab on a watt bike and go home. 

I suffered mentally throughout the process because of how mundane it is.

Dom Mandfredi was also injured.

We were constantly motivating each other, and my entire recovery would have been that much harder if I hadn’t had Dom to help. 

The difficulty of not playing hit me most at the end of last season. 

Wigan were playing in a semi-final against Salford. 

I struggled watching that match - playing in play-off matches and finals is what you strive for as a player.

 You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to win silverware. 

'Being a winger is a young man’s position - you don’t hear about many 35-year-old wingers'

When I was fit for Wigan early in 2019, I would be in and out of the team; I wasn't nailed onto start every week. 

That’s fine as a forward or a half-back because you can get better as you develop. 

Winger is a young man’s position - you don’t hear about many 35-year-old wingers.

I wanted to be playing regularly; I didn't feel like I was fitting in with the structure at Wigan anymore. 

My agent mentioned Catalans just before I got injured - I didn’t really think anything of it. 

But my injury allowed me to re-evaluate and sit down and speak to the people around me - it seemed like a massive opportunity.   

I spoke to Steve McNamara - he explained how he wanted me to play and what the lifestyle in France was like.

Everything about the place is perfect. 

The culture is brilliant, and the environment in the squad is so welcoming. 

There’s a big diversity at the club that makes it so special - French, Aussies, Kiwis and English.

First impressions are a lot.

On the first day I arrived, I went out with Michael McIlorum and the Tomkins' for food and coffee.

It made me feel at ease - having the familiarity of seeing lads I knew really helped. 

Sometimes, you hear of players moving to France and not enjoying the experience.

I didn’t want that to be me; I felt part of it straight away.

‘I can sometimes try to overthink things and get psyched up three hours before kick-off, which is a long time to be pumped up”

Bernard [Guasch] throughout all of lockdown was phenomenal to us all. 

He gave us meat packages and looked after us with our pay throughout the virus. 

Even now, he is doing everything out of his own pocket. 

To have someone like that behind the club is amazing, and we all want to play for him because we respect him a lot. 

Our matchdays look different.

Typically, we’ll have breakfast at the club before going to the airport and flying to England. 

At the start of the season, we were using commercial airlines. 

For our matches now, we have to fly out on a private jet because of Covid-19 protocols.

Once we get to England, we head to the stadium and spend most of our time sat waiting for our match to start.

It’s all about being as prepared as you can to play. 

I can sometimes try to overthink things and get psyched up three hours before kick-off, which is a long time to be pumped up. 

So, I just try to relax as much as possible – whether that’s listening to music or chatting with my teammates.

Once the match starts, my instincts take over.