“Nothing is cut out”: Sam Tomkins discusses eye-opening documentary about Super League finale

Ross Heppenstall

Sam Tomkins’ achievements marked him out as arguably the best player of his generation and created enough stories to fill several Hollywood blockbusters.

From scoring five tries on his debut as a teenager to winning numerous Challenge Cups and Grand Finals, to being crowned Man of Steel twice and captaining England, it was an epic journey.

Now his rugby league career has been captured in a new film called Tomkins: The Last Chance, which will premiere at The Edge in Wigan tonight (Wednesday).

Produced by Joe Gardiner of Leeds-based JAM FILMS, the 90-minute documentary chronicles the 34-year-old’s rise through the ranks at Wigan, where he was nurtured in the vaunted Academy by Shaun WaneTheir close relationship is explored and, intriguingly, Tomkins is mic’d up for the final four games of last season.

That culminated in a Grand Final appearance for Catalans Dragons against Wigan, where Tomkins was denied a fairytale finish against the club where he made his name.

The film also shines a light on Tomkins the family man, from his father’s influence on him during his formative years, and his close relationship with his mother.

There are interviews with family members, former team-mates and coaches including Wane, England captain George Williams, ex-Wigan team-mate Josh Charnley and St Helens’ Tommy Makinson.

Tomkins admits the production is an emotional watch as it shows him as the doting dad to his four children and loving husband to Charlotte, plus the abuse he faced from rival fans during his playing days.

His time in the NRL at New Zealand Warriors is also covered as Tomkins talks about how he was more successful than many down under would have you believe.

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Having retired following Catalans’ heartbreaking 10-2 loss last autumn, Tomkins remains based in the south of France. He works for the Dragons on a part-time basis and is a regular pundit on Sky Sports’ increased coverage of Super League.

During the film, the influence of Wane is clear to see and Tomkins told Love Rugby League: “I was really lucky that Shaun was my coach when I was in the Academy.

“There were a number of us, 15 and 16-year-olds, placed in the Wigan environment and you had to get to grips with the high standards very quickly. Shaun drove those standards pretty hard and the training was very full-on – to say we were only young lads at the time, it was relentless.

“But all the players, and some lads moved to different clubs, had that strong work ethic and desire to compete, which I think Shaun bred into us.”

Wane talks in the documentary about his regret at maybe pushing his young players too far physically. And Tomkins admits: “There were a lot of blood, sweat and tears. But we didn’t know any different, that was the thing, because we hadn’t been in any other system.

“I think some players come to Wigan and are shellshocked at the intensity of the training; certainly that happened during my time at the club. But we were all young, impressionable men looking to get an Academy or first-team spot, so if you didn’t buy into it, you were out.

“You didn’t really have an option. The drills were consistently tough and we would run into each other at 100 miles per hour at game intensity for long periods of time.

“He wasn’t making us do anything extreme; it was just the top end of rugby training but for long, long periods. For young kids coming in, it was a shock but like I say we didn’t know any different.

“Whether it be a contact session, wrestle, hill session or weight session, it was 100 percent every single day and there was no break.

“Certainly now when you train you’ve got GPS and heart monitors so everything is tracked and logged. There is a lot of science now, but there wasn’t then. Shaun worked you for as long as he saw fit, which was a very long time.”

There is a nice anecdote where it is revealed how Wane made his young players such as Tomkins, Lee Mossop, Chris Tuson and Micky McIlorum carry filofaxes (personal organisers).

Tomkins remembers: “We were only 16, but Shaun gave us all a big, ugly filofax each!

“In it you’d write your goals for the training sessions and the games – and you had to carry it everywhere. You needed it in the team meetings and in the gym because it was about being disciplined at all times.

“Some lads were at college and others like me worked – I had a job as a greenkeeper on a golf course so I used to pack my lunch along with this big, ugly filofax because I was going training after work!

“Other lads were bricklayers and had to take their filofax with their sandwiches to go bricklaying. But it was about being disciplined and if you forgot your filofax enough times you’d get released from the club.

“It happened to a friend of mine, a plumber, who got shown the door. Shaun said ‘if you can’t follow a simple rule and bring a Filofax every week, then you might as well just go’. And he did.

“It was a smart ploy by Shaun and got us thinking all the time about being disciplined and organised when we came to training.”

Tomkins saw the same kind of desire which he believes is in Wigan’s DNA during last Saturday’s stirring win over Penrith Panthers in the World Club Challenge.

“That’s what it is – desire,” adds Tomkins. “From 2010, when Michael Maguire came in, we just outworked every team. Wigan beat Catalans in last year’s Grand Final because they just went harder for longer.

“Yes, they scored one try and we lost the game but Wigan worked that hard – and defended so well – that they kept us out.

“Not for the first time, they showed that’s a blueprint for winning big games and the Penrith match last Saturday was another example.

“That’s certainly part of Wigan’s DNA. They recruit young players who come in and don’t stop. Take young Harvie Hill, who I was really impressed with against Penrith.

“He’s a 20-year-old prop up against some of the best forwards in the world and he was moving better than some of these blokes who are getting paid a million dollars. That’s desire and is something that can’t really be taught.”

Tomkins hopes the film will appeal to all rugby league fans for the insight that it provides into his life away from the game.

He adds: “Everyone knows me as Sam Tomkins the rugby player, but the majority of my life is something else. I’m a husband, a father of four, a son, a brother and a friend.

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“I’m a big fan of sport documentaries, whether they be on Netflix or other platforms, and I watch them all – Formula 1: Drive to Survive or Quarterback.

“I’m not interested in those sports, but I am interested in stories about athletes. This film is about my life away from rugby as much as it my rugby career itself.

“I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinion of me – I clearly don’t care what people think of me and have had to grow a pretty thick skin over the years.

“If someone’s interested in what I’m like away from rugby they will see that and the raw truth about what playing the game is like. Nothing is bleeped or cut out – they have made it authentic as possible.”

Tomkins said retirement at the end of last season has given him time to become a better dad, but he remains fiercely determined to be the best at anything he does.

“I feel like I’m just getting my first-team number with Sky Sports,” says Tomkins. “I’ve done bits of broadcasting before because I love the sport and I love talking about it, so why not do it on TV?

“For many years, the plan was always to get a gig with Sky Sports when I retired and that’s what I’ve got. But I’m competitive and I want to become the best pundit. I’ve got that same fire for my new job as I had as a young kid coming through at Wigan.

“I want to do more games, work every week, and I’d love to get to a level where I was as good as someone like Brian Carney.”

Tickets remain available for tonight’s screening at The Edge, which is being hosted by Sky Sports’ Jenna Brooks, and start from £25. A host of big names will be in attendance including Wane, Williams, Charnley and Makinson, plus members of Matt Peet’s squad and, of course, Tomkins himself.


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