“Tommy Freeman is awesome.” That is the ringing endorsement from Northampton Saints star Harry Mallinder for his fellow fullback at Franklin’s Gardens.
Tommy Freeman is one of the hottest prospects to emerge from the Club’s Academy during the past year, and the 19-year-old is tipped to enjoy a big future.
But had Leicester not passed up the opportunity, he could have been strutting his stuff for Tigers rather than Saints in the years to come.
Freeman told the Rugby Paper last week; “I went to school in Suffolk, which was in Northampton’s catchment area, but played junior rugby for Wymondham RFC, which was Leicester’s.
“I trialled with both and got in at Leicester from age 13 to 16, but was released for being too small.
“They said they still wanted to keep their eye on me and suggested I should go to Melton College, but I said ‘no’ to that and instead went to Moulton College in Northampton, where one of my old school teachers told me I’d have a better chance. It’s the best move I’ve made.
“Saints picked me up in my second year in 2018 and I played pretty much every game for their Academy that season before they offered me a contract in February last year.
“I wasn’t expecting it so it was a great boost, and I started training with the first team.”
Oxford-born Freeman caught the eye during preseason and in Northampton Wanderers’ matches this term, with Mallinder tipping the back to start pushing for a first-team spot before too long.
“He’s going to be a really good player – he looks very good already,” said Mallinder. “I remember going through his pre-season games with him, he’s a really nice lad and really versatile.”
With Saints boasting the likes of England’s George Furbank, Samoa’s Ahsee Tuala and also Mallinder at 15, Freeman knows he has his work cut out to make the grade.
But rather than putting him off, Freeman insists the embarrassment of riches at fullback at Franklin’s Gardens allows him to learn from some of the Premiership’s most-talented players.
“It’s been unreal being in the senior environment,” he added. “It’s very intense but they’re a good bunch of lads to be around and as fullbacks we help each other out as a group.
“It’s been exciting to see George Furbank making his England debut and inspiring all of us. I don’t have a mentor as such but it’s pretty easy to go to Harry and go through my games with him, and Furbs is always there for a chat.
“Sam Vesty’s a great coach to all of us as well and he’s been a big part of George’s development, so I’ll always take his advice.
“The best thing he’s said to me is, ‘every day is a day to get better’ and that’s how I try to take things.
“Currently I’m working hard on being that first defender when the ball’s kicked and then kicking into the corner myself – I’m trying to be that all-round player.”