Saints legend Tom Wood retires: Tom Vickers' view

There are probably not enough pages in the newspaper or even words in the dictionary to adequately sum up Tom Wood's contribution to Northampton Saints RFC.

By Tom Vickers
Monday, 30th May 2022, 1:03 pm
Updated Monday, 30th May 2022, 4:28 pm
Tom Wood lifted the European Challenge Cup with Saints in 2014
Tom Wood lifted the European Challenge Cup with Saints in 2014

His 240 appearances for the club encompass some of the greatest highs and most difficult of lows.

And it's hard not to reference Rudyard Kipling's 'If­-' as this man, this warrior of a man, has confronted triumph and occasional disaster in his 12 years at the Gardens.

Wood has come out after the most agonising of defeats and earned the respect of media and fans alike with his searing honesty.

He walked with kings, playing alongside some of the greats for club and country, but the Coventry-born forward never lost the common touch.

Time and again he has helped to get the team back on track, leading from the front in battle after battle, even when his body has told him to do otherwise.

When he and Saints have looked down and out, they have risen again together.

Injury after injury, tough moment after tough moment, Wood has picked himself up to help rebuild the club that he has become synonymous with.

Tom Wood and Alex Waller after the Premiership Rugby Cup triumph in 2019

But this piece isn't about the bad times.

It's about the good.

Oh, the good times.

The European Challenge Cup he lifted in Cardiff.

The run to the Heineken Cup final in the same city.

And, of course, the Premiership title win.

The Premiership title win that wouldn't have been possible had Wood not delivered an heroic moment in the dying stages against his club's derby-day rivals.

With the clock ticking down and Saints down a man, Wood, who later revealed he had expended far too much energy moving house earlier that day, stepped up to turn agony into ecstasy.

He scored the try that helped to book his team a passage to Twickenham and send Tigers, who had always seemed to be part of the showpiece occasion, packing.

With a few seconds' worth of distance run, his try against Tigers ensured Saints and everything associated with it was his.

It is a moment that will never be forgotten by anyone who witnessed it.

A moment many have relived over and again.

And you somehow feel it is a moment that will never be bettered at the Gardens.

How could it be, really?

Wood will always have that moment.

But he delivered so many more than that.

He has been captain of this club, and even when he wasn't, it felt like he was.

Wood was an example to all others, the epitome of playing through the pain.

At one stage, he battled pubic symphysis, a condition that left him barely able to walk.

But back he came.

At one stage, he developed a blood clot in his lung that led to him needing to go to hospital.

But back he came.

At one stage, he played for half a season with only one fully working arm.

But on he went.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, Wood delivered for the black, green and gold.

He hasn't won as many trophies as his hard work merited.

But he has won enough.

It almost became impossible to think that he would retire.

At times, you felt he may go on playing until the end of time itself.

But the moment has finally come.

And few in the history of Northampton Saints have worn it with more pride.