Rugby

'When I Started Off I Was In A Desperate Place, I Was Homeless'

'When I Started Off I Was In A Desperate Place, I Was Homeless'

Rugby. Always rugby. Tom Savage knew what he wanted to do. It took a journey along the scenic route to get there.

He's now the owner of threeredkings.com, a Munster rugby fansite which provides a unique insight into the province and Irish rugby. It's a one-stop-shop for fellow fans in search of intelligent and intricate analysis. A figure at the front line of a new dawn for rugby coverage, the system-focused, tactical thinkers detailing not just what happened but why.

It all launched from his lowest ebb and grew to become a livelihood.

Speaking to Balls.ie's rugby podcast, World in Union, Savage describes how doing what he loves brought him out of the darkness:

When I started this off I was in a desperate place, I was homeless. I was living in a hostel in Dublin. I had come back from abroad and it just hadn't worked out since I came back. Day-to-day I would always follow rugby.

Any chance I got, I would go along to Leinster schools rugby. The biggest disparity between people normally at Leinster schools rugby and me floating around Airbnb and hostels, but you want to watch games.

When you are at rugby or watching a game, be it Munster if I could get a TV or follow it, you escape a little bit from the drudgery that might be your life at the time. The bad situation you find yourself in...

I thought I could cover it. I followed the likes of Murray Kinsella, top guys. I was always thinking 'I'd like to go something like that.' I didn't intend that it'd be for a living.

The 2015 World Cup was the start. As the digital age continued to develop, it became a perfect storm for a man with the ability to provide a unique service and now had the means to spread it. The game was already in the throes of a revolution that had transformed it from a slow-moving, forwards-plodding, back-roaming chess match to a comprehensive, intertwined and ferocious contest.

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Fans could see change and craved a means of understanding why. Threeredkings provided the answer.

This is particularly true when a team is losing. Nobody ever asks why is it going right, where is it going wrong is a stock question. 2015 happened to be a particularly poor season for Munster and thus Savage's content reflected that.

"It just was one of those seasons where you write a lot of negative articles criticising certain things. In the aftermath of that, it grew and grew.

"I think people want to see something a bit different. Rugby was an escape. I wanted to escape into the excitement of a game and then get into the detail of what actually happened. Why Munster lost or won.

"You can lose yourself in the excitement of the game itself. A good game, when you are excited and invested, it is the best thing. That's what I wanted the account to convey, the excitement in the build-up of the game and then become apart of the match day. For good or ill.

"To make people laugh or give them a deeper understanding of what they saw. I wouldn't be so arrogant to say I am teaching people, I put out what I saw and why I think it happened. If people liked it or thought it was rubbish, I'd find out sooner or later."

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In some ways, that year was the last vestige of a more innocent age. The dawn of the dark social media dissension loomed. Threeredkings is a digital platform. For Tom Savage, it perfectly encapsulates the duality of sites like Twitter. A major positive in a platform for his livelihood, yet simultaneously a dire vehicle for man to channel and display his worst.

In a bid to navigate that difficulty, Threeredkings represents an amplified version of Tom Savage. It's often said social media is not reality and he represents that, electing to only partially expose his true self.

The thing is you can't be yourself doing an account like that on Twitter. You have to be an exaggerated version of yourself. Otherwise, you'll get hurt. It's not cyber-bullying, but on certain days and certain events, I can see my mentions after a big game.

I hate Munster versus Leinster games. the build-up on Twitter and social media is a head-wrecker. I used to have a thing before where I wouldn't block anyone not give them the satisfaction, but then you are getting the constant same heads to show up again and again. It gets mentally exhausting.

People are entitled to whatever, they can think Munster are shit or TRK is shit, whatever. But when it's a job, you can't root through the sewer every day.

There's currency in controversy. Savage knows that well. As an example, he recalls an infamous spat with Irish sports journalist, Paul Kimmage, who tagged him in a tweet during the Gerbrandt Grobler saga.

Grobler was a South African second-row who arrived at Munster after a failed drugs test and two-year-suspension. Six months after his signing, the issue became a focal point when he neared his debut. His place on the IRFU payroll gave cause for much debate far beyond his merits as a rugby player.

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Kimmage and many of his colleagues felt he shouldn't play, Savage disagreed. Kimmage take a shot, Savage bit back.

It ended in Grobler departing after a single season and an increase in followers for threeredkings. That wasn't the goal, though.

"That kind of stuff irritates me. It's easy to do that content," he explains. "Look, people have thought stuff I said in the past is bullshit as well, they've called me out on that. You expect if you give it out you have to take it."

Sections of the media and Munster fans were in opposition to each other. Threeredkings managed to articulate the fan's voice.

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"My thing at the time and still is, it was wrong. He did his time for it, he was punished for it. Let's give him a chance to come back and see what it's about. I chatted to him and he seemed a good guy. I thought some of it went a little bit too far.

"I tried to put myself in the position of a guy who was five thousand miles away from his friends and family. He's a guy getting paid good money to play professional sport, sure. But then he turns on the radio and people are saying he is a disgrace and shouldn't be wearing a Munster jersey.

"Look, I fucked up in my time god knows how many times. You don't get end up homeless in a hostel without fucking up. But when you've done your time and trying to rehab yourself. A bit of criticism is to be expected but I think it went a week too far in the news cycle."

As for Munster, Savage sees signs of improvement.

Look at the best sides of Europe, they have two things. Settled personnel on the field and settled coaching. Leinster are in year three of Leo Cullen, Johnny Sexton is the main man creatively. Look at Saracens with Mark McCall and Owen Farrell. Munster were up against it this year, but are still a level below.

This year was about integrating Tadgh Beirne, Joey Carbery, it's Johann Van Graan's first year. It's hard to become a top team. They have improved, but it's about improving relative to teams that are ahead of them.

A voice for fans by a fan. Tom Savage has found his calling.

 

SEE ALSO: Three Red Kings, Rugby Journalism, Ireland's New Scrum Coach - World In Union 

 

Maurice Brosnan

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