Scott Fardy has clearly had it with close shaves.
For six seasons, the Aussie with the sprawling facial hair was part of a Brumbies side that scrambled to reach the summit of Super Rugby only for their efforts to end time and again in defeat once the air began to thin.
His first campaign with the Canberra-based club, in 2012, ended with a seventh-placed finish in the overall table — just one step below the play-off places. A year later and the Chiefs deprived them of the title in a decider in Hamilton.
Two losing semi-final appearances followed and after that a pair of unsuccessful appearances in quarters. Six years spent crossing oceans and time zones before he finally called time and plotted a new course for the far side of the world.
“We lost the 2013 Super final (to the Chiefs) after being up by about 10 points. We’d a bit of a dodgy scrum decision or something and they turned it around. The jetlag kicked in. We were coming back from (the semi-final in) South Africa into New Zealand.”
Fardy’s frustrations extend to the Test stage where Australia lost the 2015 World Cup final to the All Blacks and, while he has a winner’s medal from the Wallabies’ Rugby Championship success earlier that year, there is an appetite for more.
He could have opted for a life in England and France and the extra cash that would have come with it. Leinster offered something more valuable: The prospect of adding some sheen to a club career dulled by a lack of silver.
He was no student of the northern club game, like pretty much every player from the SANZAR countries. He didn’t need to be. It didn’t take a genius to know that Leinster was the right port of call for a man in his boat.
Leinster have never had it so good in terms of personnel and the depth of quality available to them and yet, like all of Irish rugby’s best provincial sides down the years, they are so much the better for a handful of top-class foreign expertise.
Fardy certainly qualifies there.
The club’s conundrum in selecting two of their three Antipodeans in matchday squads has been referred to enough by now so it says everything about the rugged lock/flanker that the idea of him being the one omitted is simply never countenanced.
Leo Cullen opted to leave scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park in the stands against Saracens in the quarter-final and he may have to stand the electric wing James Lowe down this weekend if Luke McGrath is declared crook.
Fardy is the latest in a line of grizzled southern hemisphere grunts that started with Rocky Elsom through to Nathan Hines and Brad Thorn that has helped Leinster over the line in Europe, even if he shrugs off the responsibility that infers.
“I guess I’m not feeling that pressure from people outside, I’m just focused on what I need to do on a weekly basis. I’ve not looked at the press or what people in the media say. I wouldn’t read much press.
“Then, the young guys coming through, it’s good to see so many guys come in and play over the course of a long season, the ability of lads like Dan Leavy and Ryan, their careers are taking off. It’s great to see them take off at such a young age.”
Fardy’s blossoming was a more belated affair.
He was 27 when the Brumbies repatriated him from his three-year stint with the Kamaishi Seawaves in Japan. He has proven since to be an effective and talented operator who can be depended on for 20 minutes.
Leinster have already withdrawn 1,300 minutes from his 6’ 6” frame this season but he doesn’t have the drain of long-distance flights to contend with anymore and the two-week furlough enjoyed after the Saracens win won’t have hurt none either.
Hines and Thorn were, respectively, touching 40 and just beyond it when they wrote the last chapters in their club careers so who is to say how much more Leinster can squeeze out of this lightly-raced 33-year old.
“I definitely won’t be here forever,” he smiled. “I’m getting a bit long in the tooth according to a lot of people here. But it’s trying to make that shelf-life as long as possible and they’ve been doing a pretty good job of that here.”
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