'Rank outsider' Freeman savours his Saints emergence
‘Tommy Freeman was a rank outsider in the betting at the start of the year, but he’s come forward and taken a spot and therefore it has an impact on somebody else’.
Those are the words of Chris Boyd, talking about the incredible emergence of Saints’ talented young full-back this season.
Freeman was named breakthrough player of the year at Saints’ end-of-season awards dinner on Tuesday night, rightly rewarding the 20-year-old for a stellar campaign.
So good has Freeman been that Saints have at times been able to use George Furbank at fly-half, while the likes of Harry Mallinder and Ahsee Tuala have barely had a look-in in recent times.
Freeman’s form has made him undroppable - and he has to pinch himself when he reflects on his rapid progression.
“Sitting now where I am, I wouldn’t have expected it,” the Oxford-born player said.
“The amount of games I’ve played and how I’ve done so far - I’m definitely over the moon.
“At first, it’s all about impressing the coaches and making sure you make a bit of a mark in the team, and then to get some plaudits from spectators is an added bonus.
“If they believe in me, it gives me every confidence to keep playing well for them.
“Every game is a learning game for me.
“As much as you could say I’m more of a regular in the team now, we’re still all definitely battling it out and the age I am, there’s still so much to learn from the older lads.
“Playing in a team with Biggs (Dan Biggar) and Courts (Courtney Lawes) is unbelievable and there’s loads to learn.
“When you’re in game mode, you’ve got a job to do, but my mates have come to watch and they’re just saying it’s crazy how I’m playing alongside the likes of Dan Biggar and Courtney.
“It is a bit of a wake-up call, it is surreal and it’s living the dream, isn’t it?”
Freeman and lightning-quick wing Ollie Sleightholme very much appear to be part of the present and future of the Saints backline.
It is a partnership that seems like it could become as effective as the one Ben Foden and Chris Ashton struck up at Saints.
And Freeman said: “Me and Sleights get on well and I always try to find him in the warm-up and link up with him.
“On the pitch, I try to put him in space - and you know how quick he is! He can finish anything off with a little bit of space.
“My role with Ollie is to get him as much space as possible and create as much as I can with him, and hopefully good things happen.”
Freeman, who will head to Sweden for a minor knee operation on Tuesday, will now set his sights on finishing a fine season in style at Bath this afternoon.
And he said: “We’re not going to take it lightly.
“We want to get a good result at Bath because it feels like we haven’t won there for a long time.
“Our mentality going there is that we are going to give it everything we’ve got and we’ll keep battling hard.”