TOM Learoyd-Lahrs is a household name after his time in the NRL.
Nowadays, the Tamworth-born and bred former Canberra Raiders star prefers to be out of the spotlight.
He retired from the sport in 2015 and returned home to Tamworth.
Since coming home, the football star has thrown himself into several education and community-based programs. We take a look back at what he’s been up to since retirement from the national sport.
The hulking former Canberra Raider once called Tamworth home, and now does again after taking up a role at Tamworth High School after injuries put a halt to his 12-year NRL career that also saw him pull on the green and gold four times.
While his time at the top of the game might be over, his boots are far from hanging on the wall just yet, the second- rower ready to not only go around with the North Tamworth Bears and Group 4 representative side, but also switching codes to notch up a few games for the Pirates in the upcoming Central North Rugby season.
He also dedicates time to coaching the North Tamworth U14s and U6s, and has just about been guest speaker or attendee at every junior football function and event on the calendar in a testament to the big man’s personality and his want to give back to the game.
In April 2016, he ran on alongside some of his own child-hood heroes, as well as some former teammates and opposition players as a litany of big names hit Jack Woolaston Oval for the charity clash.
“There are Origin players here from so many different eras – the last 35 years of the game,” Learoyd-Lahrs said.
“It is great to be involved in something like this.”
The big second-rower knows that it is a charity and exhibition match, but also knows that the old competitive spirit is never far from the surface of the former players.
“I think it will be like an aggressive game of touch footy,” he said.
I never thought I would get to play for NSW or with blokes like this again so it is great.Tom Learoyd-Lahrs
“ I never thought I would get to play for NSW or with blokes like this again so it is great.
“There’s be a bit less pressure and physicality this time.”
As far as players go, the Raiders hitman is in awe of the players who have a different skill set to himself.
“Players like David Peachey and (Nathan) Blacklock who have all those extra skills were always great to watch.
“It will be good to play with and against all the blokes that I never had a chance to.”
Tom Learoyd-Lahrs strolled towards the grandstand at No.1 Oval looking fit enough to crash into a Maroons defensive line.
And that’s no exaggeration. You half expect his little finger to bulge.
It has been two seasons since his 120-game, three-club NRL career ended at the Melbourne Storm, but the former Australia and NSW representative says he weighs 120 kilograms – only five kilograms heavier than his listed playing weight.
Put that down to the 32-year-old’s need to continually feed the competitive animal inside him.
It’s a desire that, if the weather is kind, will see him make his first-grade cricket debut – a season after West Tamworth convinced him to play for the club when he was a guest speaker at their end-of-season presentation night.
My body’s taken a fair hit over the years playing footy, and I think you never lose that competitive edge … It’s [cricket] a different challenge for me physically. Mentally, I’m certainly enjoying it.Tom Learoyd-Lahrs
“For me it was about finding something I could play competitively,” he said.
“My body’s taken a fair hit over the years playing footy, and I think you never lose that competitive edge … It’s [cricket] a different challenge for me physically. Mentally, I’m certainly enjoying it.”
Learoyd-Lahrs played cricket at Nemingha Public School and then at Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School, before giving it away at “about 14 or 15” to concentrate on league.
The transition from elite professional athlete to civilian can be traumatic for sportspeople, the buzz to the comparable boredom difficult to handle.
Finding an activity to help fill the massive void left by retirement is advisable.
For former Australia, Blues and Raiders blunt instrument Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, diving head first into his work with the Clontarf Foundation, and helping to launch the Tamworth-based Clontarf Rugby League Carnival, has aided him in his transition since his 2015 retirement.
The Western Australia-based national organisation employs a multi-faceted approach to giving Indigenous males a leg-up in life.
Tamworth-based Learoyd-Lahrs is excited about the event’s immediate growth spurt and its potential going forward.
He said the carnival was an incentive-based happening to celebrate the efforts of students with a school attendance of at least 85 per cent, no unresolved assessments and a good school behavioural record.
He said the carnival was a “great advertisement” for boys who had overcome significant hurdles in everyday life.
Obviously, we’re an engagement program, so you’ve got to have different things on the calendar throughout the year that are gonna engage the boys – give them something to look forward to and give them something to aspire to.Tom Learoyd-Lahrs
“A few of us put our heads together,” he added.
“We just decided it would be a good advertisement for rugby league in the town, especially Indigenous rugby league.”
It was also a good incentive for youths, he said, adding: “Obviously, we’re an engagement program, so you’ve got to have different things on the calendar throughout the year that are gonna engage the boys – give them something to look forward to and give them something to aspire to.”
The former Indigenous All Star and NSW Country rep works with North Tamworth centre Tristram Morris at the foundation.