Saints centre Stephenson savouring his stint in Sydney
There is a lot to be said for dual-registration appearances at clubs such as Moseley and Rotherham.
But this summer, a couple of Saints have headed off to a far more glamorous destination.
Tom Stephenson and Tom Collins are currently strutting their stuff in Sydney with Randwick.
This arrangement was reached thanks to Saints attack coach Alan Dickens’ former coach at Saracens, Alan Gaffney, who has strong links with Randwick.
And is certainly suits both Stephenson and Collins.
Neither player was able to get the game time they wanted at Franklin’s Gardens last season.
Collins couldn’t force his way past the likes of George North, Ken Pisi and Ben Foden in the bid for a wing berth.
And Stephenson had no chance of competing for his favoured centre spot as a long-term injury left him sidelined.
The 23-year-old broke his leg during a pre-season clash with Rotherham at the Gardens and was not able to play a competitive game in the 2016/17 campaign.
So, when the flight ticket to Sydney was booked, Stephenson jumped at the chance to not only get minutes under his belt, but to sample the culture Australia has to offer.
“It’s been good here,” said Stephenson, who played his first full 80 minutes for 18 months in a Randwick game a couple of weeks ago.
“There are some amazing sights and some awesome beaches to be seen.
“The weather could be better, especially as all we are hearing about is how good the weather is back home!
“I’ve been to Australia once before with England Under-18s for three weeks, but we didn’t really have a chance to see much!
“But we train Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings here so in the day we have a lot of spare time now.”
The presence of Collins has been a big positive for Stephenson, with the pair close friends.
And Stephenson said: “TC has been good.
“We are good friends and housemates back home, so it’s good to have him here with me.
“I think he’s enjoying getting out of Northampton, meeting new people and playing some different rugby!”
So just what has that rugby been like?
“We’ve played three games so far,” Stephenson explained. “One game got cancelled because of incident in a fifth team match!
“But we had a tough game last weekend against fourth in the league.
“The standard is good, probably close to the Wanderers rugby back home.
“They play a very different style of rugby here, not a lot of kicking and a very quick tempo, so it’s fun and exciting.
“We’ll certainly be fit by the end of it!”
Randwick, known as the Galloping Greens, were beaten 30-29 in an enthralling encounter against Warringah recently.
Collins scored what is described as ‘a fantastic solo try’, but his third-placed side were beaten by the team who now sit directly above them in the league standings.
But while they want to win, Stephenson and Collins know their Sydney stay is as much about the experience and game time as it is about results.
“It was really good to get 80 minutes recently,” Stephenson said. “It’s a been a long time and a very hard couple of years, both physically and mentally.
“I was relieved to get that out of the way and had a good game as well, so that was pleasing!”
Stephenson has been enjoying the company of his team-mates, who have helped the Saints pair settle in quickly.
“They’ve been really good with us,” he said. “They’re are all around our age, so that’s ideal.
“They’ve taken us out after games and are all really nice lads.
“Our coach, Nick Ryan, has been especially good, been having us over for a feed a lot. He’s been really helpful!
“All of the lads here are looking to progress to either Super Rugby or come to Europe, so they are all good players!”
Stephenson and Collins will be flying back to Northampton on July 23 and will look to hit the ground running in Saints’ pre-season preparations.
The good news is that Stephenson is now getting himself in great shape following that horrible leg injury.
“My leg feels great,” he said. “So far I’ve had no issues, I feel stronger and quicker than I did before.
“I actually feel like a better player, so I’m just really looking forward to playing at Saints again!”
Saints attack coach Dickens has been keeping a close eye on his charges.
“Alan Dickens came out here a week or two ago and that was nice,” Stephenson said.
“We’ve been in contact with him a lot and my physio, Nathan, came here last weekend, so they’ve been really good with it all!”
Overall, Stephenson has loved everything about his time away so far.
And he is confident that it will really benefit him and Saints in the long term.
He said: “I had to do it. Not playing for 19 months, I needed to reset my head and just enjoy playing.
“I needed to get some miles through my leg and the style of rugby out here will improve us massively.
“We are touching the ball a lot more than we would do at home and we’ve doing a lot skills and extra gym work.
“I think it’s definitely a worthwhile trip, plus we get to live in Sydney for two months!”