Jonny Golding and Tane Tu'ipulotu branching out in life after Newcastle Falcons

Bruise-brothers during their playing days at Newcastle Falcons, Jonny Golding and Tane Tu’ipulotu are hoping to make a similar dent on the business world

Tane Tu'ipulotu and Jonny Golding with their TRIBE products
Tane Tu'ipulotu and Jonny Golding with their TRIBE products

Bruise-brothers during their playing days at Newcastle Falcons, Jonny Golding and Tane Tu’ipulotu are hoping to make a similar dent on the business world.

Now retired from professional rugby and beginning the next chapter in their lives, the pair are behind the new ‘Tribe’ venture selling wooden wallets, watches, sunglasses and surfboards.

Golding explained: “During the final year of my rugby career I was really thinking hard about what I wanted to do, and I was determined it would be something I was equally passionate about.

“Half the battle is finding something you enjoy doing and, when Tane and myself spoke about it, the kind of thing we really enjoy most is being outdoors. We wanted to find something that would fit into that lifestyle, and we have always enjoyed natural products.

“We wanted to bring in something new, something that hadn’t been seen before, and we started off with wood wallets. It expanded to wood sunglasses, wood watches and just went from there.

“Things that weren’t possible, we wanted to make possible, and the satisfaction of knowing it was unique was always big for us. Every product is one of a kind, and it has been a bit of a snowball effect with the way it is building. We love it.”

Tu’ipulotu, who retired from rugby due to a knee injury last year, said: “For me it was a little bit different to Jonny in that I knew I couldn’t play any more with the way my knee was, whereas he could have stayed in rugby but decided to step away.

“The main thing I miss is the time with the boys, and the bonding you have. Although the bus trips were long it was quite fun at times being with your mates, and then there are parts you don’t miss.

“We are fond of our surfing, and when you are sat out there waiting for waves you get a lot of thoughts going through your head. Using the great outdoors to bring something into people’s houses was a big motivation for us, and it is a new challenge compared to being a professional rugby player.

“The only previous job I’d had was taking crops to market for my dad when I was a teenager in Tonga, but it is a fresh concept and we are really going for it.”

Tu’ipulotu is still keeping his hand in rugby with a role at Novos while he completes his level-three coaching badge, Golding admitting: “It is tough to find something you really want to do after a sports career, and I didn’t want to go into coaching. Tane is different because he enjoys coaching and is doing that as well, but this is a fresh start for both of us.

“The Rugby Players’ Association have been extremely helpful, especially our North East rep Mandy Thompson. She has helped us develop contacts and put networking events our way, she is always willing to help and I can’t speak highly enough of the RPA from that side.

“It is obviously completely different from turning up at training, but it gives you something to focus on for the day and you have to put your full attention into it.

“Spending most of the day on computers is a lot different, and dealing with things like marketing and PR. I have always enjoyed the sales side of things, but it is a whole new world and you are dealing with people who have been doing it for 20 years or more in a lot of cases.

“We started up at the back end of 2013, and it is building nicely. We have launched on ‘not on the high street’ which is a big online supermarket, we have our own website and we are talking to quite a few retailers as well.”

Tu’ipulotu believes life on the rugby field can help in his current walk of life, saying: “Even though it is so different, I do think the rugby has been beneficial to what we are doing now, just with simple things like confidence with people, projecting ourselves and being open to different opinions.

“We are just making sure we are approaching everyone in the right way, and not losing that one person who could make a big difference.”

The pair spent much of last week at a trade show in Birmingham, with sustainability high on the agenda. A lot of stuff like our surfboards is made over in Ecuador, simply because that is where the best quality of wood comes from. It is not from plantations so it is all sustainable, and it is planted to be cut down so we are not endangering rain-forests or anything like that,” said Golding.

“The idea of a wooden wallet might sound strange, but when people actually see them they have been impressed.

“It is a steep learning curve, but we are enjoying the challenge.”

No bitterness at rugby career end for Tane Tu'ipulotu and Jonny Golding

Tane Tu'ipulotu and Jonny Golding insist they have no gripes with rugby despite having called time on their Newcastle Falcons careers.

Tu’ipulotu was forced to retire in the autumn due to a knee injury, Golding having stepped away voluntarily to pursue off-field interests.

The pair are now working together in the business world, Golding admitting: “Doing one of John Wells’ (pictured below) four-hour mauling sessions in the snow is something I can live without, but I do miss the games.

“I wish you could just play matches, but this is such an exciting new start for us and people need to realise that professional sport is a short career.

“You have to make that transition to real life and, although I could have squeezed out another season or two, I wanted to have a body that would enable me to run around with my kids and have a better quality of life. Sooner or later it comes to all players, and I just chose to do it when I had something good in mind. Hopefully the risk will pay off.”

Tu’ipulotu, who is pursuing his coaching career with Novos and Newcastle Falcons’ apprentice players, said: “Rugby is a tough game, and all clubs have guys in the same boat.

“For a lot of us we have had good long careers, and I have got no regrets even though I was forced to retire.

“I had a good time in the game, and when you get into rugby you know the risks. We are both truly grateful to the opportunity that rugby has given us, and to every coach in the past who has put their trust in us.”

Watching on from a distance as their former club fight for Premiership safety, Golding said: “I think Newcastle will pull it off, and they really throw their bodies in. The hope now is they can use that as a platform to snatch a few wins.”

Tu’ipulotu added: “The Falcons have got it in them. They have got the squad, and it has been pretty tough for them in some of their games.

“I don’t want to say they have been unlucky.

“You can see they are putting in the effort and doing what they can forthe club and the region.”


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Graeme Whitfield
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