Bay of Plenty Rugby has pulled off a recruitment feat in signing one of New Zealand’s best young locks.
Tom Franklin, 26, will return to his Bay of Plenty roots after the Super Rugby campaign with the Highlanders.
The 110kg, 1.99m giant is regarded as a potential long-term All Black.
Last year the All Blacks selectors showed how highly they rated Franklin by calling him into the training squad as cover for Sam Whitelock ahead of the June tests against Wales.
Franklin is of true Bay of Plenty stock. He was born and raised in Opotiki before spending his secondary school years boarding at St Paul’s Collegiate in Hamilton.
He moved to Dunedin to study business management at the University of Otago. He was a member of the New Zealand under-20 side which won the 2010 Junior World Championship in Argentina before making his Otago debut a year later.
The Highlanders followed in 2014 where the young lock learned quickly alongside Brad Thorn and Jarrad Hoeata. Franklin was selected for the Maori All Blacks in 2014 and again last year where he featured in wins over United States and Harlequins.
Franklin has played 51 games for Otago, with his 50th against Bay of Plenty in last year’s Mitre 10 Cup Championship semifinal.
Bay of Plenty Steamers head coach Clayton McMillan is delighted to have such a powerhouse joining at the peak of his powers.
"I tried to sign Tom two years ago when he was in-between contracts but he elected to go back to Otago at that stage. He has played 50 games for Otago so that was a box ticked for him and he was keen for new challenges and the allure of coming back home and closer to his family," McMillan said.
"Fortunately we were able to get the job done. He brings Super level experience, leadership, professionalism – all the sorts of things we are looking for in anybody that we contract.
"But you don't happen to pick up Super Rugby players too easily so it is a real coup for us to be able to attract him back."
With uncertainty over the future of centurion Culum Retallick and Troy Callander having major surgery, Franklin’s signature is a massive boost to the Steamers locking stocks.
"I think we have demonstrated over the last couple of years an ability to bring good people in to our environment like Mitch Karpik and Liam Polwart, who are now over at the Chiefs," McMillan said.
"I think that is a reflection of lots of good things happening in Bay of Plenty that are encouraging people to see us as a good option moving forward."
Bay of Plenty Rugby chief executive Mike Rogers said Franklin’s signing represented a high degree of confidence for players to come here and achieve their aspirations.
"We are dedicated to trying to get our local boys back when we can and we will keep plugging away at that," Rogers said.
"It gives me confidence in our coaching staff, our facilities and the other players that we are recruiting. That is a big consideration for players wanting to come here."