Former Leicester Tigers and Wasps star Tom Varndell on why he is so looking forward to joining up with Bury St Edmunds in National League 2
Tom Varndell says getting enjoyment back in his rugby was the main reason for agreeing to drop down the levels to be a player-coach at fourth tier Bury St Edmunds.
The 34-year-old winger has had a glittering career which has seen him lift the Premiership title twice, represent his country in different formats of the game and set some individual records, notably as the top tier’s leading try scorer.
But revealing he had lost the buzz for playing to some extent in recent years, the former Leicester Tigers, Wasps and four-time England-capped player was more than ready to draw a line under his professional career. It was never going to be the end for him on a rugby pitch though.
“I was up at Yorkshire Carnegie for a little bit and the season was cut short due to obvious reasons,” he told the Free Press.
“I have actually got into sports management and sports agency looking after other players and that is pretty much my 9-5 job. So for me it was a case of my next chapter.”
Having kept in contact with Bury’s performance director Terry Sands since he gave him the chance to play in his England Sevens team at the age of 18, it was an opportunity from an old friend that sparked his interest.
“Terry gave me an opportunity to do something purely for the fun and for the enjoyment factor, and that’s what Bury St Edmunds gives me,” he said.
“Not only that, but it gives me a chance to coach and pass on some experience that I’ve gathered through my career on to the younger players and help on that level.”
He added: “For me, I have to say it is more for my own mental health, I suppose.
“Obviously the agency life is hard. My phone is stuck to my head most of the day now, so it is a great chance for me to still enjoy playing but doing it obviously at a slightly lower level. But also having fun and finding that enjoyment for the game which I think I lost a little bit over the last couple of years, which you do; it becomes a job.”
Varndell’s newly-acquired agency licence restricts him from playing in the top three tiers but he is certainly hungry to play his part in getting Bury to the next level.
“Wherever I go I want to be the best I can possibly be,” he said.
“I have still got that same hunger and desire to achieve and I am never going to go on to a rugby pitch and not give my all.
“Terry has given me the opportunity to coach and start a new chapter at Bury and it is going to be exciting.”
The player who started out at Chinnor as an eight-year-old before moving on to Henley Hawks before launching his professional career at Leicester Tigers, appreciates the importance of the community clubs such as Bury.
“I am looking forward to the coaching aspect, which will be good, and being part of a rugby club that has got a great following, great people in charge," he said. "I think it has got some great family values as well.
“I think with rugby in general is all about these lower level National League teams. They actually make these top levels what they are.”
Vardnell, who will commute from Leicester, is looking forward to his first experience of his new club when Bury host their re-arranged Greene King IPA 7s tournament in August, having
been put back from May.
Meanwhile, the club’s AGM has been moved to July 23, instead of early next month.