Friday 19 January 2018

Triggs will miss home from home

Popular Kiwi lock leaves with a heavy heart

Hayden Triggs is leaving his home-from-home at Leinster to return to New Zealand. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Hayden Triggs is leaving his home-from-home at Leinster to return to New Zealand. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

All choices demand a rejection. The admission price for progress.

And so Leinster bid farewell to Hayden Triggs, with some reluctance, while the amiable Kiwi lock walks away from them, with more.

But this is no ordinary leaving; for this has been no ordinary life here. The Triggs family have lived and loved and lost too much for that. As they look to the future with some trepidation, they only need to look behind them for inspiration.

"I can't speak more highly of this club," he says. "It's about the support you get, the resources that are available to you outside of playing.

"If you're having trouble at home, there's people to talk to. If you're having trouble with money, they're on top of that."

Luminous Trouble was too small a word for what was visited upon the Triggs family though. Last year, Hayden and wife Mikkala brought luminous Stella into their world but lost her before they could get to know her.

She lived, as if with epic defiance and devotion, for three weeks and four hours. Triggs witnessed death in Iraq but not even service in the army could serve him now.

The tragedy, so violent, pricked feelings of home until they realised they were already there.

"Seeing the people around us in a non-rugby sense support us... To me, that was mind-blowing," Triggs recalls. "From all different directions, love and prayers and support."

Amidst the grief, a discordant sense of belonging. In darkness, the light of new friends.

And so the much-travelled family wanted to stay here, even if the 35-year-old may not have played on. Their choice was to reject their homeland and stay at home where son August and daughter Adelaide were adding fluency in Irish to their already proficient Japanese.

Sadly, as liberal as rugby may be about players plying their trade for whichever flag they choose, the sport's nabobs can be a little stuffier when it comes to accepting potentially new coaches.

"I'm going back to New Zealand to rest, to retire," he sighs, heavily. He has often loved this sporting life but recently begun to despair of the life that exists within the sport he once loved. And the death.

"To me, rugby has just changed beyond identity to me," says Triggs. "I went as a kid, watching, in Upper Hutt, Wellington. Then I started playing.

"Then to where I am now, the game is different, and it's almost like I don't like it anymore. The game itself on Saturday is the be-all and end-all.

"As professionals, we're paid to do this, that's kind of our product. The game is what I love but all the s**t around it is hard.

"I see the guys who have just retired, sadly passing away, or having heart complications or, the worst-case scenario, committing suicide.

"There's so much pressure and stress that's what these young kids are coming into. They don't know the beers, after a Thursday night, they don't know the bus trips away with the clubs, they know none of that and I do, that's what I grew up in. It's just so..."


He knows the next generation of players, the media-cloned, phone-swiping cadre will be different, because they know no other way

"Yeah, fair enough. I'm an old-school guy. Physically I could keep going. But mentally, I'm done."

He knows he can cope, he hopes.

He admired the great Aussie lock Dan Vickerman, envied how he played and how he then stopped playing and helped others who were trying to do the same.

Last February, just days before he was due to speak at a conference on coping with life after sport, he ended his own. He was 37.

Triggs will be fine; he knows who he is.

"I'm pretty good at expressing my feelings. I don't mind chatting to people. It's going to be interesting though.

"I've thought about starting a video blog, because apart from… I mean Vickerman, that hits home to me.

"Same age bracket, same kind of deal that's going to be happening. He seemed fine and dandy until it was over.

spotlight "I think about that, not constantly, but I have to check myself every now and then, make sure that I find a way to deal with it I guess.

"As much as I'm looking forward to getting away from the spotlight and all of the stuff that comes with the rugby, I know I'll miss it. It's going to be an adventure."

He hopes to leave with some tin this month; no trophy could ever be large enough to contain all his memories.

His sport may have changed its identity but its spirit survives.

"The people have the spirit. The people of rugby don't change."

He has never allowed himself to.

Irish Independent

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