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Young Gun: Tom Hendrickson – Exeter centre

Tom HendricksonWith a lineage tracing back to the Land of the Long White Cloud, it was perhaps inevitable that Tom Hendrickson would try his hand at rugby.

The Exeter Chief emigrated from New Zealand to Cornwall when he was five and, under the influence of Kiwi dad Pete, he was never to forget a sport so closely entwined with his heritage.

Hendrickson was soon whisked into the Cornish Pirates set-up as a child, before heading to Truro College and catching the eye of the Chiefs.

The journey reached a new milestone on Saturday after the 19-year-old centre, who is now dual-registered with the Pirates, started for the first time with Exeter against Ospreys in the LV= Cup.

And Hendrickson admits he was always destined to thrive in rugby but claims he owes as much to his West Country roots as he does to ancestral New Zealand.

“My dad always wanted me to get into rugby and eventually found me a club which turned out to be the Pirates,” said Hendrickson, who studied at Mounts Bay Academy in Penzance.

“He played a bit when he was younger before work took over. He has had a massive passion and was always helping me work on my game.

“I would go to the Pirates every week and starting from age ten I was their ball boy, so it was strange eventually coming into the first team and playing with the guys I used to help on the sidelines.

“My mum’s from Cornwall and didn’t know much about rugby. She never shied me away from it though naturally she got a bit protective, making sure I didn’t forget my mouthguard!

“I was pretty shocked to be involved in the LV= Cup this time, especially when I found out I was starting.

“You are obviously a bit nervous but you always have to look at how exciting and how much of a chance it is.

“I’ve just got to keep training hard and impressing the coaches as much as I can and there are so many players I can look to learn things from.

“Guys like Sam Hill, Sireli Naqelevuki are role models to aspire to and I’m only young – I’m learning my position still.”

Hendrickson continues to study in Truro two days a week working towards becoming a sports coach, which he admits will be a back-up plan in case his fairytale comes to an end.

Yet, with Kiwi blood and a Pirates’ upbringing, the teenager is confident that with hard graft he can prove to be the next big thing at Sandy Park.

“You look at the players who have started at the Pirates too, Jack Nowell, Sam and also Dave Ewers,” he added. “It’s awesome to see how they’ve got involved and I’m trying to do the same.

“Just being involved in tournaments like the British & Irish Cup this year has helped me too, getting to travel to places like Dublin which I thought I’d never experience.

“I’ve got a lot of motivation. My dad is still there helping me all the way and I’ve had a lot of other influences in my life, too.

“It’s been a collective really, Martin Bodilly at the Pirates has taken me all the way through the age groups, then coaches such as Tom Rawlings among many more at college.

“They’ve all done their best for me and I want to repay them, I’ve come along way but I can’t stop now.”

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