Baxter full of praise for Waldrom
By Howard Lloyd
Thomas Waldrom will leave a ‘big hole’ when the New Zealander leaves Exeter Chiefs at the end of the season.
That is the view of the man who signed him – director of rugby Rob Baxter – who said the 34-year-old’s four-season association with the club had been more fruitful than either part could have guessed.
“I could talk for ever about Tommy really – he will leave a big hole. He has been a fantastic player for us, right from the first time we met,” he said.
“We saw a specific role that needed filling and Tom looked the ideal candidate. We showed faith in playing to suit him and he kept working for us at lots of things as well.
“It’s impossible to say if I knew what impact he’d have. We knew he was a good player and he was a good fit for what we were looking for but, at the same time, he had to work extremely hard.
“It has not all been plain sailing – he has been involved in some of the tough losses, but he has stuck at it and worked through it.”
Waldrom has notched 50 tries in 92 games since joining from Leicester Tigers in 2014.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think the move would go as well as it has, but that’s down to the environment here,” said Waldrom, who was the Premiership’s top try-scorer in his first two seasons at the club.
“The coaches, my team-mates, the fans, it’s been brilliant and I’ve loved every minute of it.
"It’s the right time for me to go,” added Waldrom, who has four England caps. “It’s been a hard decision to come to, but deep down I know it’s the right decision.”
Baxter picked out last season’s successful Premiership final as the pinnacle of Waldrom’s Exeter career.
“The best game I ever saw him play was that game in the final against Wasps,” he said. “A guy who wants to get the ball and run at the defence for 100 minutes takes something special. His qualities are fantastic and with him playing such an important part of our progress, it was fitting that he was so important in the final.
“I remember his first pre-season, he worked exceptionally hard before he arrived here and in fitness training, he dominated a lot of the fitness scores. It has not just happened. He has worked very hard, been very determined and shown a lot of good, Chiefs-like qualities.”