Thursday, July 11, 2013

Home

On a muddy field behind the terraced houses of Lime Street, two rugby posts stretch toward the clouds in front of a modest clubhouse defended by a net. You’ll find no all seater stadium or glorious grandstand here. There is no director’s box or commentator’s gantry. It hardly looks like the integral component of an international success story, but that's exactly what it is.
 
Behind the posts a net hangs, the only line of defence for the clubhouse against the rubber coated bombs that are modern day match balls. A glimpse at the new pavilion here reveals why such barriers are needed. This is Gorseinon RFC, the home of Leigh Halfpenny.
 
The new pavilion was named after the Lions fullback in May, just one of the accolades he has received this year. His Six Nations Player of the Tournament and Lions Player of the Tour are more eminent, but it is testament to the man that this will have felt just as important to him.
For Halfpenny this is his sanctuary, his school and his home. Much of his time has been spent here honing his craft and now it's where he goes to in his mind before every kick against the greatest of foes.
 
When the ball is on the tee Leigh is never in Cardiff or Auckland or Sydney, he's here with his grandfather Malcolm on ball boy duty as long range efforts cannon off the roof or dent cars.
 
It's far more than a dynamite boot that has raised Halfpenny's profile to one of the games best fullbacks, alongside the likes of Kurtley Beale and Israel Dagg though.

His time in Oz proved he had no need to seek out a wizard, he lacks nothing in the way of courage, heart or brain (Nor personality if his One Direction singing antics are anything to go by).
 
Halfpenny may be dwarfed by his fellow players in a game dominated by giants, but his ability and valour makes him a titan on the pitch.
 
Halfpenny has put his body on the line for his country time and again, throwing himself in front of raging attackers in search of the victory. One such instance against Australia in December left him in hospital and vowing to think before committing such heroic acts. However, that’s instinct, the time to think is precious little and the Welshman continues to do all he can to defend his line.

In attack, Halfpenny is clinical. Two assists in the final test showed just how devastating he can be with the ball in his hands, those safe hands that nestle the ball dropping from high kicks with apparent ease and certainty.
 
With Australia on the ropes in the final Lions test Halfpenny stepped in to finish them off, with footwork that would make the Ali shuffle look like a John Sergeant paso doble. Halfpenny collected a loose kick, skirted around Genia, out paced Tomane and set North free to end any thoughts of an Australian fight back. This was just minutes after setting up Sexton to cross the whitewash.


All memories of the agonising final kick one week ago abolished. Leigh Halfpenny was the game changer, the record breaker, the talisman. There is little chance of such superlatives going to his head. When the final whistle blew his team mates popped the bubbly with Daniel Craig, but Halfpenny put champagne with James Bond on ice, he had more important guests.
In the crowd fans, friends and family stood proud with their own piece of home with them; a welsh flag emblazed with ‘Gorseinon RFC.’ The fullback went straight to them for congratulatory cwtches. These people and this club are his past, present and future.
 
And when the champagne no longer fizzes, the fireworks fizzle out and Daniel Craig returns to the film sets, this is where Leigh will return. Back to that pitch next to the cricket ground; just him, granddad Malcolm, the posts and a few dented cars.
 
When Halfpenny leaves home again, to take on the World’s greatest, this is the place he will retreat to in his mind. The home that never leaves him.
 
 Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Home

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