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Kane Douglas says he is not affected by media criticism

Kane Douglas says he is not affected by media criticism

SPORTSFILE

Kane Douglas says he is not affected by media criticism

A day in the life of Kane Douglas reveals the life of Kane Douglas in a day. It is Wednesday in Dublin; ostensibly his day off but, like most professionals seeking that extra edge, he has a massage and weights programme planned for the afternoon at Leinster HQ.

He wakes early but it doesn't bother him. Freddy, his dog, hungrily bounces on his hind legs to offer his familiar, ageless smile. His master flings open the curtains to be assailed a forbidding morning.

The sea is buffeting Blackrock with relentless intensity; the lap of each wave prompting a familiar inkling of what the rest of his morning holds. It's 34 degrees on Sydney's Gold Coast; girlfriend Jennarly will be there today. "Sometimes you get jealous, restless," he says sombrely.

Although the sea instantly reminds him of how distant he is from friends and family, he knows the same waters all for the same liquid desert. Stranded ashore, he imagines home on the other side. Images and memories are prompted by each crushing surge.

Melancholy

Instead of feeling all alone here, on the other side of the world, thousands of miles from home, he is instead filled with a warm melancholy that rebuts any chill of negative nostalgia.

The commotion of life surrounds him; another day of in the life of Leinster's 25-year-old second-row but before he resumes it as a professional, he must take time to address it in the personal.

He will begin by making a call to his dad, Chris.

When Douglas dropped his kit bag in the spare room of Leinster coach Matt O'Connor's Dublin home last September, he knew deep down that somehow he was returning to a part of himself but also a time when part of himself was lost forever.

Two autumns ago, Douglas should have been preparing for an international series; instead, he spent the week locked in a vigil at his mother's bedside; Trish had suffered a stroke on the flight north.

"It was my first trip to this side of the world," he recalls. "I was about to play my first game in France, I remember Dad rang me. He had just landed and Mum had been rushed to hospital.

"It's strange. To some degree, that turned me off thinking about ever wanting to play in France. I'd spoken to a couple of clubs there but for some lingering reason I didn't want to go down that road."

Six months later, she would pass away but the Douglas family would return north the following autumn, in 2013, to see Kane's brother, Luke, play for Scotland in the Rugby League World Cup, while Kane himself featured for the Wallabies.

He didn't make an impression on Dublin - he was rested by Ewen McKenzie - but Dublin made an impression on him. The idea of returning began germinating in his mind; he spoke with his family about it.

"I met Sean Doyle in Ulster while I was here and I enjoyed Ireland. Then I came down to Dublin and that was a little bit different again," he says.

"I just wanted to see the world, experience different cultures, play in a different competitions. Ireland really appealed to me.

"For some reason, I was drawn here and I was hoping a team might have wanted me. Then I got some interest from Leinster and here I am.

"Then Dad and my two brothers came over last year with a couple of my dad's mates. It was probably the best thing for Dad to do. He was in London for about three and a half weeks and he would have hated the place by the end of it because Mum was so sick.

Memories

"When she died in the middle of June 2013, we knew it would take time for him. But he came over and saw my brother play and me play in Australia. So he needed something like that. They watched every game they could manage. There were good memories this time."

All of the Douglas family were in a different place and this place of grief now seemed different to all of them.

"We're okay. If I need to get home it's 24 hours and you're there. And I'm always on Skype," he says.

Leaving home did not just affect his personal life; although handsomely compensated compared to the cash-poor ARU - sources reckon he can earn close to six figures more here than there - he also turned his back on an Australian career that had encompassed 14 caps.

When Michael Cheika spoke to us about Leinster's new signing last year, he hadn't yet been parachuted into the Wallaby hot-seat and his thinly-veiled criticism of the ARU revealed his admiration of Douglas.

"I would have paid any money to keep him here," said the man who was key to the Waratahs becoming kings of Super Rugby.

Cheika may come calling again later this year if he can persuade ARU officials to change the rules; as it stands, overseas players cannot represent Australia.

"I really loved all my time with the Waratahs," Douglas explains. "But I just wanted something different. I didn't know what it would be like to play with a different group of players and play in a different country and I wanted to test that side of myself.

"Now I'm here I know I can't play for the Wallabies. Maybe one day I will again. They may have to change the rule book and then have an injury.

"I'm only in Ireland so I'd be close by. . . I'd be very open to it. I'd happily go and play. It would be awesome. I knew I was closing that door when I came over here. Cheika is a great coach and he likes me, which is always a help."

Cheika remains an admirer. "He's a smart boy. Not every southern hemisphere player goes well in the north but Kane has all the attributes to do well in the north.

"It's just the work he does. Because he's not a flashy player, people don't give him the recognition he deserves.

"When I was coaching (Leinster), there was criticism of Stan Wright. Isa Nacewa was criticised as well by some great blokes but he didn't get on too badly in the end did he?

"Kane is never going to be a showman. If they're looking for a showman, they're not going to get one. He's all about hard work, plenty of aggression.

"It will be a slow burner and eventually he'll earn the respect from the public like a lot of players who go overseas."

Leinster is his focus now; Gordon D'Arcy's early comparison with Rocky Elsom arguably heaped unwanted pressure on him, as did a searing critique by former Leinster second-row Neil Francis.

Having played rugby constantly without break since last February, Douglas hasn't scaled the heights yet; he knows that; the home match against Connacht last month hinted at his enormous range of abilities.

"I do feel settled in Dublin but the rugby is different. I have to keep pushing myself. I can't relax and just think that things I've done before will stand to me," he says.

"I played well against Connacht but I didn't play well against Munster. Even against Cardiff last weekend, there were a few things I was happy with but others I wasn't. I just want to become a consistent player.

"I always look at the negatives over the positives. My girlfriend will always say I played well and she'll tell me two or three times but I see the stuff that other people don't see, the things that I got wrong. I'm always conscious of that.

"I'm pretty hard on myself. I try to improve every week. Sometimes you try to improve one thing and something else slips up. It's constantly chasing to get everything right but you can't.

Criticise

"I'm not really big on newspapers. I criticise myself more than anyone else. I'm improving all the time and I can only be true to myself.

"I carry myself well off the field and if people don't like what I'm doing, well people will think different things. I can't control that. I'm just doing the best I can.

"Hopefully I can just keep improving and help the team get as far as they can. It's been a long season for me. I've been cooked the last week or two in terms of my health as well. I'm not used to this weather! I need to start wearing a few more layers!

"We have such a good team, a massive squad and so many good players in every position. You do feel a sense that everyone expects so much from Leinster. It's good.

"It drives people to be better. We're just worrying about ourselves in this next fortnight and hopefully we can get the results to set us up for some silverware."

Most of all, he feels like he has a home from home.

"It's tough for Jennarly because she has no friends. But I got 40 new buddies the day I walked into work. That's why it would be so great to win something with these guys."

And he never feels alone.

Leinster v Castres - guide to the game

Form guide: Leinster: WWLWW; Castres LLWWL.

Match betting: Leinster 1/3, Draw 55/1, Castres 11/1.

Handicap: Leinster (-22) 10/11; Draw (-22) 25/1; Castres (+25) 10/11.

Key man: Marty Moore

This evening may be all about how much Leinster win by, with the backs expected to score the tries required but can only do so on the foundations laid down by the pack.

Moore is only back from injury but Leinster coach Matt O'Connor has effected what he agrees is a "sea-change" by ditching Ireland's ever-present Mike Ross; the microscope will be on his understudy in green but the Lucan man can shoulder the burden.

three Things Leinster must do

1 Keep patient

Captain Jamie Heaslip has outlined the importance of Leinster not shifting their process in the quest for five points. A heady, wild chase for tries before they have tested the visitors' capability for the fight could lead to a distracted, ragged affair which would not be in the home team's favour. Take the early points, build the pressure and the tries will come - eventually.

2 Don't break down at the breakdown

For all the quibbling about Leinster's progress this season, they have the best ruck retention rate in Europe; in stark contrast, their visitors today have the worst record in this regard. Castres will come to Dublin armed with a plan not necessarily to win but to spoil Leinster's ability to produce so the home side must get on top.

3 Be clinical

Leinster have had a tendency to become frustrated in phased play this season and hence have wasted a lot of scoring situations. Recently, they have become more effective in reaching the 22; now the key is to make sure they always return with points.

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