Maori All Black Franklin huge boost to Bay of Plenty

Maori All Black Franklin huge boost to Bay of Plenty

14 September 2017

In the modern, professional age players usually only shift away from a team they are successful with to either further their bank accounts or their chances of making higher honours – or both.

So it is refreshing – and very much an old school adage – why Bay of Plenty Steamers lock Tom Franklin decided to leave Otago after 51 games and play for the province where he grew up.

"Family was the biggest reason I came back," he said.

"I went down to Dunedin to study at university and planned on staying there about three years and was there for about eight, so thought I had better come back and spend some time at home with my family.

"It has been a good decision so far."

The 27-year-old was raised in Opotiki and educated at Hamilton’s St Paul’s Collegiate as a boarder before heading down to the University of Otago.

The move south certainly suited the rangy, ball-playing lock and part-time blindside flanker. He has 51 caps for Otago, 54 for the Highlanders, was part of the NZ Under-20 team that won the world championship in Argentina in 2010 and has played four games for the Maori All Blacks.

Another black jersey may not be too far away after Franklin was called into the All Blacks training squad in 2016 and again this season.

But that is for another time. Right now getting the Steamers into the finals and promotion to the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership is his focus.

Tomorrow the Steamers face one of their biggest challenges against Taranaki in New Plymouth.

Franklin says it will be a step up from last Friday’s away win over Manawatu in Palmerston North.

"Yep, 100 per cent step up. Every time you play one of the teams in the top division it is always a big challenge, especially a team like the 'Naki who have in recent years gone so well.

"We know we can do it and we have the team to do it. It is all about showing up on the day and putting in a performance and fronting up."

Franklin has played every game so far in the Championship, including a rare start at blindside flanker in the last-start win over Manawatu.

He clearly enjoyed the opportunity to get more freedom to roam about and run with the ball.

"It has always been a dream of mine to play flanker," he said laughing.

"It was fun and something different. It gave me a licence to stick to the ball and I really enjoyed it but we will see how we go from here on."

Franklin is impressed by what he has seen of the new-look Bay of Plenty training academy under the guidance of director of rugby and Steamers head coach Clayton McMillan.

"Things are definitely on the way up here. Clayton has a good thing going with awesome facilities and they have a good system with the academy boys and apprentice fellas all coming in," Franklin said.

(Source: Bay of Plenty Times)