We all need something to smile about

Tommy Makinson - Ourvoice

Tommy Makinson
St Helens and England

11th March 2021

I'm really excited about this year. It’s a big one for me, with it being my testimonial year.

It’s a big year for everyone. We all need something to smile about. That’s the bigger picture. I just want to see fans back in stadiums, in bucket loads, smiling, having a good time.

Playing in front of people is what it’s all about. Without them you feel a bit lost. The atmosphere at the 2019 Grand Final [against Salford at Old Trafford] was incredible. Imagine what 2020’s would have been like, with one of the greatest sporting moments of all time. You’ll never see a finish like that again. A million-to-one chance. Imagine if there’d been fans there.

 

It’s a big year for everyone. We all need something to smile about. That’s the bigger picture. I just want to see fans back in stadiums, in bucket loads, smiling, having a good time.

Tommy Makinson - Ourvoice

I used to go to finals as a supporter myself. I was a Wigan fan as a kid. I’m not a Wigan fan anymore!

The fans are everything and hopefully things will pick up as we move towards the back end of the year.

And hopefully there’ll be no more home schooling! My daughter Isla is six and it’s pretty challenging to say the least. Aria, mine and Beth’s other daughter, is in the terrible twos. It's a fantastic mix.

I used to go to finals as a supporter myself. I was a Wigan fan as a kid. I’m not a Wigan fan anymore!

Training gets me out of the house, so Beth’s often stuck in with two little ‘uns and our dog – a Cockapoo called Duke. He's brilliant. At least in pre-season I get the weekends off with the family, so I can't complain – especially in uncertain times like these.

Beth’s helping out with my testimonial stuff too. And I have a testimonial committee as well – unbelievable people who all want to help me. There’s all sorts in the pipeline, like golf days and black tie dinners. It all depends on the pandemic.

Tommy Makinson - Ourvoice

It seems weird to be having a testimonial. When I was young, I dreamt of just playing a few pro games. You never feel like you're going to realise your ultimate dream.

It seems weird to be having a testimonial. When I was young, I dreamt of just playing a few pro games. You never feel like you're going to realise your ultimate dream. I've been pretty lucky in my career. I’m really well supported and Saints have such a good following.

I actually did my cruciate ligament three days before I was due to sign for Saints. Credit to Saints, they brushed it aside and said ‘we see a big future for you’. Within five and a half months I was on a plane to Australia, playing tour games, trying to impress.

I was 17 then. I still feel quite young now. I feel like I’m playing at my best and I’ve never been fitter. I'm at the peak of my career and it’s a World Cup year.

I’ve never played in a World Cup. It’s a big goal for me this year. It’s every player’s dream. I need to stay injury free and hit my best form all year. We've got a great coach, everyone knows that, and he doesn't pull punches. You know he'll pick the best team available. I want to be part of it. I want to win the World Cup.

Tommy Makinson - Ourvoice

Like the fans, I follow the English lads in the NRL. Luke Thompson, George Williams, Elliott Whitehead…I want to see them doing well. They’re class players.

I watched the last one as a fan. Like the fans, I follow the English lads in the NRL. Luke Thompson, George Williams, Elliott Whitehead…I want to see them doing well. They’re class players.

The NRL was a goal for myself at one stage. They’ve got outside backs in abundance, but for a time after the Golden Boot business I thought about going over and proving I could play a bit.

The Golden Boot thing was surreal. Did I think I was the best player in the world? No way! I was more than happy to pick it up though and it's something I’m very proud of. It’s on my mantelpiece and nobody can ever take it away.

I couldn't quite believe it when my name was read out at the awards. Elliott Whitehead and a couple of Kiwis were up for it, and I was just thinking, ‘well, it's not mine’. When I heard my name I didn't realise what had happened, it was so overwhelming. Kevin Sinfield said ‘just breathe, you’re not breathing!’.

Sinfield, Schofield, Hanley…there are some names on that list. Thurston, Lewis, Meninga. It’s ridiculous.

It only took me three or four England games to win a Golden Boot. James Graham played 50-odd internationals and never won it. He’s joked about that a few times. What took you so long Jammer?

Jammer and other people have been writing nice things about me for my testimonial brochure. It's only now, as I’m reading what team-mates, coaches and friends are saying about me, that I’m realising what I’ve achieved over 10 years. I’ve never really stopped and looked back. Reading all the things that people have been saying has made me sit back and think, ‘you know what? I've not been too bad’.

But I'm not the kind of player who can just turn up and just go ‘bang, magic!’. I know players like that – Benny Barba’s one – it’s just I'm not one of them. I have to prepare right, get my thoughts on the game and then I’m good to go. I'm always confident in what I can do, but that confidence comes from preparation.

When I was young, I was just a small kid trying his best and there were always players much more talented than me. Effort is what got me places. When Wigan let me go, Leigh gave me a chance. Then Saints came along. The rest is history.

My mum, Melanie, wasn’t too happy about me playing. She thought it was too dangerous. But I absolutely loved it. My family were a big influence. My dad, Steven, and grandad Keith, are Wigan diehards.

Growing up my idols were Wigan players like Steve Renouf and Adrian Lam. My dad’s company was a sponsor for a spell, and I remember going to the training base when I was young and meeting the likes of Andy Farrell. Me, my dad, my grandad…

Kris Radlinski was my favourite player. I wanted to be just like him. I played full-back and centre as a teenager, and wanted to play just like him. I wanted to be like him as well – he’s really humble, down to earth.

Paul Wellens was the same when I signed for Saints. He just plied his trade, got on with it. You learn from the best. That's what Paul, Sean Long and Keiron Cunningham passed on to me, and I’ve definitely started expressing myself in a different way these days, helping some of the young lads to progress.

I feel like once my time’s up in sport, that will be that. I nearly went to Edge Hill University when I was young. I’d signed on for a course, but I can’t even remember which one or why. It’s an option. It’s something I’ve thought a lot about.

Whenever I finish – and I’d like to finish as a one-club-player – I feel I could move away from sport and into something else that I've got a real passion for. I might get into property. I’m into DIY and programmes like Grand Designs. I love looking at houses.

To relax I play a bit of golf and go fishing – unless it's raining. You won't catch me out there then! And I’m really into podcasts, sometimes property programmes, usually sport-related ones. I listened to Jonny Wilkinson’s autobiography recently, about the before and after of England’s World Cup win. It was brilliant. Waney’s high-performance podcast with Jake Humphrey was really good too.

Hopefully I’ll win a Challenge Cup and a Super League treble, and win a World Cup with England too.

My immediate focus is Saints – to hit my best form all year and to be among the best in the competition. Hopefully I’ll win a Challenge Cup and a Super League treble, and win a World Cup with England too.

‘Golden Boot winner nobody ever heard of scores winning try in World Cup Final. Or drops a goal…’

You can watch Tommy’s testimonial on Saturday 13 March on Our League – buy your pass here.

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