#TackleTheToughStuff: Tom Garratt
22 May 2022
Mums are often our biggest supporters and Tom Garratt’s was no different. Tom's mum, Elaine, was his biggest fan - she supported him wholeheartedly throughout his life, even at her lowest.
Tom recently lost his mum to cancer – an illness she had been battling for several years. But even at her weakest, Elaine ensured her focus was on Tom, caring selflessly for her son until her final moments.
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“Towards the last couple of years when she was poorly and going through chemo – she was a big help in me processing some pretty adverse and challenging experiences,” Tom, who joined Hull KR ahead of the 2022 season, explained.
“Even in her weakest moments when she was going through chemo and facing her own mortality, she was still the person that could drag me through all my crap, which I think is a really powerful thing.
“The best way you could describe her as a person is that she was completely selfless. From growing up into adult life I always struggled with self-belief more than self-confidence – I was quite good at faking self-confidence – but in my quietest moments my self-belief was something that really wasn’t there.
"Whenever I didn’t believe in myself, she was always the person that believed in me and always got me through, which was one of the harder things when she did die.
“And I still think about it now, when I have those moments where I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself, my mums the first person I think of. I always think, ‘well I might not believe in myself, but my mum believed in me’ and I think, that’s a start - and I go from there.”
Despite her illness, Tom’s mum would rarely miss watching him play. Before signing with Hull KR, Tom’s career was going from strength to strength at Championship club Dewsbury Rams. And his mum was there to support him, regardless of her deteriorating health.
“She didn’t miss a game, even when she was poorly. There were sometimes she would be at the game, struggling to stay awake because of her illness and the chemo. Especially towards the end.
“I will always have a massive soft spot for Dewsbury [Rams] and a big place in my heart, because during the final few months at the last few games when my mum was in a wheelchair, they basically let her sit in one of the executive boxes – they really catered for her and cared for her so she could still come to the games and watch me.
“No matter what happens in the rest of my career, I’ll always have a massive soft spot for them.”
Tom’s mum passed away shortly before he was due to start pre-season with Hull KR. Her funeral was less than a week before his first day, with emotions still raw as he embarked on his new adventure with the Robins.
“Going into a new environment – I didn’t really know anybody – and it wasn’t like I was close enough to talk to anyone about it. The lads didn’t really know what me not being myself was – they didn’t know what normal me was.”
These milestone moments - the days when something big happens in your life - are made for sharing with your loved ones. But Tom couldn’t. He couldn’t share this special moment with the person who had supported him unconditionally throughout his rugby league journey.
“I think I’d teared up about three or four times on the way there in the car on my own. And then as I got there, there’s a big sign next to the front door at the stadium and it says, ‘seeing a Robin is a sign that a loved one is with you’. I saw it and sat in the car on my own crying for about 15 minutes before I went in. It caught me off guard big time!”
The grief never surpasses, but Tom pursued avenues to address it. After speaking to Hull KR head coach Tony Smith following a dip in his mental health at the end of last year, Tony pointed Tom in the direction of Rugby League Cares, who’s terrific work across the game ensures people don’t suffer alone.
“Tony’s obviously got a lot of knowledge and is really good on that side of things and was just a good person with me. He pushed me towards John, our welfare manager and then onto Rugby League Cares where I spoke to Darren from there - and he’s been amazing from getting me out of that slump.”
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Tom also found solace in opening up to his mates. He travels to training with Hull KR’s infamous ‘Bradford Bus’, a group of the club’s West Yorkshire based players who car share to training together.
“The lads that I car share with now, even though I’ve only known them for less than a year, I’ve grown pretty close with them.
“They’re all people I admire and trust with this close stuff, so when we’re sat in the car for an hour there and back, every time these conversations come up, they’ve been great. They’ve not shied away from the tough stuff.”
The passing of Tom’s mum and the adverse challenges he has faced in his life has now become his reason why. His reason to get out of bed, strive to do better and strive to succeed. His mum is the driving force that will continue to navigate his life.
“All this stuff became my reason to do well. I didn’t want to become a victim of my circumstances and I didn’t want to shy away from that adversity and let it be the reason that it defeats me.
“The stuff you go through becomes the reason you want to do well. Before a game in the changing rooms, I always think about my mum a lot and what she would say to me, what would I say to her. I think, ‘right, I’ve got to go out and do my best here because I’m playing for my mum’.
“There’s people in the world that don’t get the opportunities I’ve got so I’m not going to waste it or throw it away. I’m going to make the absolute most of it.
“I think grief – especially losing someone like your mum – isn’t something you ever come to terms with or understand. The grief always stays the same size, you as a person just grow bigger around it.
“I can use my grief to become a better person, I can use my grief to become a better rugby player, better boyfriend and in the future become a better dad from the lessons I’ve learnt from my mum.
“I’m not going to let my mums passing be a reason that I’m not a good person, I’m going to use it to be the best I can be.”