In light of Gavin Henson’s foray into the world of reality television, Killian Woods discusses the effects celebrity image is having on today’s sports stars
The playboy-like sports star can get under the skin of nearly anyone. However, the most stomach-turning tendency of these George Best characters is their withered and under-utilised talent gone to waste.
The hit BBC show Strictly Come Dancing has recently become a deathbed for rugby players’ careers and an unofficial stamp of approval on their permanent retirement. While former England internationals such as Austin Healey and Matt Dawson had already surpassed their career’s threshold, Gavin Henson is a different case.
Henson’s disregard towards rugby, a sport for which he is blessed with immense natural talent, is sickening. Add to this, the Welshman’s newly found dedication towards dancing, and Henson offers a puzzling conundrum.
His self-imposed exile – eighteen months and counting – from rugby is a complete waste of a player with the potential to be the best centre in Europe. People may not like the manner in which he conducts himself, but Henson is one of Wales’ most naturally talented players, possessing the ability to single-handedly control and even win a match.
A similar diva who appears to be following in the footsteps of Henson is England’s troubled former wunderkind, Danny Cipriani.
Another player clearly dissatisfied with rugby and life in general, Cipriani seems to have finally settled himself on a goal to achieve. Even if the challenge is lined with copious amounts of Australian dollars, accepting the rigorous challenge that is Super 15 rugby requires a certain amount of personal drive.
The aforementioned players are merely two high-profile names that appear to draw much angst from paparazzi and criticism of sports journalists for their apparent unprofessional lifestyle. However, there is more behind the constant barrage of negative judgment sent their way.
There are acceptable reasons for loathing players such as Henson and Cipriani. As outsiders imagining the mindset of a Welsh or English rugby fan, our understanding of their situations can be ill informed. A sense of disappointment with these kinds of players who go off the rails can account for some of the antagonism from fans and media alike.
For fans to grow an attachment to these players, only to see this sense of national pride fizzle away, can be crushing.
However, when focusing on players and their sudden lack of passion, rarely is their sense of self-satisfaction considered. Sport, like any other profession, is a career, a livelihood that can become stale and boring for those who partake.
Danny Cipriani showed signs of this boredom during the summer, as he trained with numerous English football league clubs and flirted with the possibility of signing a contract with League One side MK Dons.
What is often not accounted for is that these players may not actually enjoy playing rugby. Regardless of their talent or public expectation, they have the right to jump ship.
Ultimately, however, the manner in which Gavin Henson has turned his back on the game is disappointing as rugby, like any global sport, lives off having the most talented players competing. It is a disheartening thought that the Welshman may never play rugby again.