AS Tom Biggs looks back on a remarkable rugby career, just two slight regrets niggle away – never getting the England chance he deserved and seeing his dream move to Hull FC fall apart.
The 33-year-old Yorkshireman, who rose to prominence with Leeds Tykes where he remains the club’s record scorer with 51 tries in 108 games, has had to retire early on medical grounds.
Biggs’s last game was for Worcester Warriors in January, a series of subsequent ankle surgeries finally bringing the flying winger to an unfortunate standstill and preventing his return.
Nevertheless, he can be proud of that career, which included highlights such as winning the Powergen Cup with Tykes at Twickenham in 2005 and featuring for a star-studded Bath side where he earned a call-up to the England ranks.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Beverley-born Biggs said: “It is disappointing having to finish like this but it is something I was told to prepare myself for. I’m a bit gutted as I’d put a lot of effort into my latest rehab’ but this sort of thing comes with the job.
“I’ve had some great experiences especially given I never even thought about being a rugby player when I was younger so to be able to go on and do it all has been fantastic.
“I’ve met some amazing people – not just those I’ve played with but in and around the game – and I’ve been lucky to do what I have.
“I was gutted never to get the chance to play for England. I did feel like I deserved it. I got really close but it didn’t quite happen.
“There were Chris Ashton, Ugo Monye, Dave Strettle and maybe still Mark Cueto around but I’d been there for such a long period I did feel it would happen.
“A couple of times I was in camps thinking I would get the chance and I remember a few times the coaches at Bath saying I might get in the Autumn internationals or a Six Nations.
I’ve had some great experiences especially given I never even thought about being a rugby player when I was younger so to be able to go on and do it all has been fantastic.Former Leeds Tykes’ winger Tom Biggs
“That said, I was really proud to represent England Sevens and the Saxons.”
Stuart Lancaster, who had nurtured him in his early career at Leeds, was England head coach at the time around Biggs’s involvement in 2012 and 2013.
Coincidentally, it was late in 2013, too, that the player’s proposed cross-code switch to Hull FC was announced with him due to join in time for the start of the following Super League season.
However, as it transpired, Biggs could not negotiate an early release and the Black and Whites called off the move in April, 2014.
“That not working out was upsetting,” he recalled.
“Obviously, I’m a massive Hull FC fan and would have loved to play rugby league but again, I can’t have any grumbles.”
It is fascinating to think that Biggs nearly did not get started at all.
Famously, Tykes had let the untried 20-year-old join Harrogate at the start of the 2004-05 season only to swiftly cancel the deal after a major injury crisis.
He was a student at Leeds Metropolitan University at the time, working in a pea factory and as a cinema usher to make ends meet.
“I think Iain Balshaw, Tim Stimpson and Diego Albanese were all injured and even lads further down the line in the academy like Tom Rock and John Buchanan as well,” recalled Biggs.
“They could easily have gone out and signed someone else but, thankfully, they asked me back.
“I’d still been hanging around and doing a few sessions with the second team. I think when I arrived before that first Premiership game and they saw I was just 67 kilos they must have all thought: ‘you must be joking!’
“But Phil (Davies) and JC (Jon Callard) just told me to get out there and enjoy it. They left me to it which was great.
“It went well and there was no turning back. Everyone there looked after me on and off the field. It was terrific.”
After that debut against Gloucester, it soon became obvious the exciting winger had a bright future in the sport.
He would ignore his diminutive frame to become a regular for Leeds that term, thrilling crowds with his evasive running, scoring a spectacular effort against Leicester Tigers and crossing nine times in 23 games.
Biggs featured in the Powergen Cup final win over Bath at the end of that season and remembered: “I actually thought I’d just miss out on selection.
“But then Phil read out the team in the tea-room at Kirkstall. I rang my dad and told him I wasn’t on the bench.
“He said not to worry and to just make sure I went down to Twickenham and had a great day.
“But then I told him I wasn’t on the bench – as I was starting! We went on to win at Bath on the last day to avoid relegation as well and they really were great times.”
Biggs joined Newcastle Falcons in 2009-10 before Bath, his last switch to Worcester arriving after that Hull FC deal fell through.