Tuesday 20 March 2018

We were lucky to have called him our 'Prof'

Player Diary: Isa Nacewa

Isa Nacewa. Photo: Sportsfile
Isa Nacewa. Photo: Sportsfile

Isa Nacewa

This week on the field has been all about Treviso. Getting back at it after a break of nearly a month from the Guinness Pro12. Personally, I feel good again and the leg feels strong. I'm looking forward to leading the boys out at the Stadio Monigo.

Off the field, the week has been about the passing of Professor Arthur Tanner. Or 'Prof' as he was known to most of us in Leinster, in Irish Rugby and in his beloved Old Wesley.

Arthur was the Leinster doctor since the beginning of the professional era until his retirement in 2014 and, as a result, was my doc during my first stint here. It was Arthur who performed my very first medical in Ireland to make sure all was where it should be. Thankfully, it was and from there my relationship with Arthur grew.

What struck me immediately was his interest, love and passion for Leinster. And yet, when it was all over, he was able to park it and his attention switched to you as a person. He started talking about his own time in New Zealand, where was I from and my family.

Arthur understood family, both the rugby kind and the personal kind.

This was also ever-present in the three beautiful eulogies that were delivered at his funeral on Tuesday morning by Professor Frank Keane, by Gordon D'Arcy and by his son Jamie. All three men painted a perfect picture of the man. If you only knew the doctor, you heard about the rugby man. If you only knew the rugby man, you heard about the medical man. But regardless of which Arthur you knew, everyone knew the family man.

Everyone involved in Leinster was sad to bid farewell this week to former team doctor, Professor Arthur Tanner, who was laid to rest on Tuesday
Everyone involved in Leinster was sad to bid farewell this week to former team doctor, Professor Arthur Tanner, who was laid to rest on Tuesday

Everyone knew of his love for Ann, for his three children Jamie, Patrick and Jocelyn and for his grandson Finn. All three captured that side to Arthur perfectly.

As a Leinster doc, you need to be so many things to so many people. Of course, you need to be good at your job and Arthur was excellent. But you also need to be a friend, a confidant, a shoulder to cry on, a mate that you can drown your sorrows with … every player has their own needs and Arthur was able to meet all.

He was also able to tell it straight and at times that is what you need. And yet he was able to tell you the worst of news but with the height of empathy.

When you consider some of the news that he would have delivered to players, season-ending news or, worse still, career-ending news, it is no easy thing and not everyone is skilled enough to do it. But Arthur was a players' doc. He got it.

Embracing Felipe Contepomi after Leinster’s 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final victory over Munster – a rivalry he enjoyed
Embracing Felipe Contepomi after Leinster’s 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final victory over Munster – a rivalry he enjoyed

I will remember a great Leinster man and, dare I say it, a man who loved a good day at the office against Munster! His son Jamie told a great story.

If asked what his favourite Leinster moment was, Arthur would always answer that it was winning a first Heineken Cup. However, if a Munster fan asked the same question, he'd always answer Leinster winning a third Heineken Cup title … thereby overtaking Munster and their two titles!

On the day of a Munster game, Arthur was nearly more pumped up than the players and he wanted you to know it.

He wanted you to give an extra ten per cent for this one. He would have his usual words of encouragement of course, but his usual pat on the back carried with it more of a punch than normal to such an extent that it was more a thump than a pat by the end of the line.

As the full-back in many of these games, by the time the 'pat' from Arthur made its way down the line to me … well let's just say I certainly felt it! That was Arthur. He got Leinster. He got the Munster rivalry.

And yet of course on Ireland duty he treated those Munster players with the same professionalism that he would have shown the Leinster players.

My favourite memory of Arthur is of a Heineken Cup game in the RDS, a ground that Arthur loved. It's 2010 and we're taking on Racing Metro.

We were playing into the South Stand chasing a bonus-point try and all week long we were saying how their winger was a danger and would cause us damage and yet here goes Fergus McFadden gassing him on the outside under the Grandstand to score a brilliant try. However, it wasn't until afterwards that someone noticed the Prof.

The camera angle that Sky had was shooting down the touchline and you could see Prof dancing with delight, jumping in the air, roaring Ferg on … but he was about five yards in from the touchline and in the end he was shooting pistols in the air!

Of course it didn't take long for this to be isolated by Mike Ross or by one of the analysts and sure enough at the next team meeting this had been blown up for the big screen so that we weren't analysing the try anymore but Arthur's brilliance along the sideline! Pure Arthur and he loved it.

His legacy is much wider than rugby and much wider than I will ever be able to put into words but every once in a while you meet someone in your career and you just know that they will live on through the stories. Arthur is that man.

We will talk about Arthur fondly and often and he will live on for the next 50 years through the memories of the players that were lucky enough to have called him their Prof. Thank you Arthur. Rest in peace.

Irish Independent

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