- Refreshed Waldouck flying high with Falcons
- Former Wasps star looks back at eventful career
It was a redemptive moment for both man and club when Dom Waldouck dived over for the winning try in Newcastle Falcons' 18-13 win against Gloucester at Kingsholm on Saturday.
Falcons had been without an away win since 2014, Waldouck had been to hell and back through injury and watched a career that began with a Heineken Cup victory at 19 unravel.
The spectre of retirement crossed Waldouck’s mind during a barren season with London Irish last year, but after being reinvigorated by a stint with the Ohio Aviators in the USA’s inaugural PRO Rugby, his attitude to rugby – and life – has changed.
At 29, he may have his best years ahead of him, but after coming back from the brink of premature retirement he has an enviable perspective on playing the game he has always loved.
“I think when you have realised is that it is coming to an end, you value the experience. I think that is why I enjoy it so much in Newcastle,” Waldouck explained."I was desperate to come back and prove to myself that I could still play at this level"
“Last year, my experience with London Irish was a bit of a disaster and I jumped at the opportunity to go to America .
“It really reinvigorated me, I really fell in love with the game again and after that experience I was desperate to come back and prove to myself that I could still play at this level.
“I really value the opportunity to play Premiership rugby. I am really enjoying the parts of that process.
“It is great having the opportunity to play on the weekends, which is something I haven’t had for a couple of years.
“Newcastle is a start, I want to kick on at this level, I still want to push myself, get better as a player.”
As a teenager Waldouck opted for Wasps over a place at Cambridge and received one of the most formidable rugby educations around.
He made his way in a senior Wasps side including Lawrence Dallaglio, Simon Shaw, Josh Lewsey, Phil Vickery, Rafa Ibanez, Paul Sackey and his extremely precocious and to this day extremely close friend Danny Cipriani.
And after adding an Aviva Premiership crown to his European title at just 20, his pathway to the very top seemed set.
He has twice toured with England, but never won a full cap and since moving away from Wasps to Northampton Saints and then on to London Irish, his days with Dallaglio and co seem increasingly special.
Does he harbour regrets over his decision to turn down Cambridge for Wasps? Not a jot.
“I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” the former England Saxon said.
“When I first broke through I had aspirations of doing great things which haven’t materialised, but it is all part of the process and makes you who you are – I am happy with that."Not many players can say they have won a Heineken Cup and a Premiership by 19 and 20"
“Not many players can say they have won a Heineken Cup and a Premiership by 19 and 20, some of the experiences I had during that time were fantastic.
“I went on two England tours during that period as well, going on tour with Jonny Wilkinson and people of that calibre. I feel fantastically lucky to have had my rugby experience.
“Those were great times, I don’t think Dan and I realised how lucky we were being involved in a team like that at such a young age, what we achieved was fantastic.”
All but one of the Wasps players who started the 2007 Heineken Cup final had or would go on to win Test caps – with loosehead prop Tom French the only exception.
As a 19-year-old in a team packed with World Cup and Grand Slam winners, there is no sense that Waldouck was an out-of-place teenager on the bench.
A recent run-in with Dallaglio reminded Waldouck of the fond place he will always have in Wasps’ hearts and the irrevocable bond between team-mates. "once you have been in a team with someone it creates a special bond"
“I look back on those times very fondly, what we achieved was fantastic,” Waldouck said.
“I saw Lawrence the other day and we had a good chat. Rugby is a special sport in that respect, once you have been in a team with someone it creates a special bond.
“Legends such as Lawrence and Josh (Lewsey) – that team was littered with great people and great rugby players – and I was very lucky to be a part of it.”
Looking to the future
Far from wallowing in his changed path, Waldouck has been working hard to ensure his life after rugby is as rewarding as his time on the field."I want to try and make the process of moving away from rugby as smooth as possible"
Though Cambridge never transpired, he did an Open University degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and had a place at Oxford to study for a Masters in Sustainable Urban Development this year, which he deferred after being offered a contract by Dean Richards at Kingston Park.
“I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but I would love to do some work in the developing world, maybe some surveying work. That would be the grand aim,” he suggested.
“I did an Open University degree, graduated a couple of years ago – I had a place to do a Masters at Oxford this year which I have deferred for this chance at Newcastle.
“There’s a few things I am looking at post rugby, but when nothing seems to go your way, you naturally have to look at other opportunities. I want to try and make the process of moving away from rugby as smooth as possible.”