He is a man who has consistently been on the front and back pages of newspapers since he burst onto the scene in 2005. Once again, Gavin Henson has been in the press for the wrong reasons this week. Let us recap.
The former Welsh star was sacked by the Cardiff Blues this week for unacceptable behaviour on the flight home from the Blues’ Rabo Direct Pro 12 defeat to the Glasgow Warriors last Saturday morning. Yes, morning. Henson admitted that he had consumed alcohol after the game on the Friday night and continued to do so on the flight home the next morning.
A statement issued by the Cardiff Blues said:
Gavin admitted himself that his behaviour was totally unacceptable and the immediate termination of his contract sends out a clear message that behaviour like that will not be tolerated at the Blues. We have a duty to our supporters and sponsors to protect the good name of Cardiff Blues and those associated with our brand.
There have been suggestions that Henson was hung out to dry by the Blues, whose knee jerk reaction was misguided. Blues centre Casey Laulala, who is joining Munster next season, reportedly hit out at his own club on Twitter, saying: “It wasn’t bad at all. Been blown out of proportion. Club are just amateurs dealing with things.” The tweet was later removed; or at least I couldn’t find it.
You would think the point is valid in some respects as if a club sacked a player every time there was an ‘incident’, squad rosters would be thinned somewhat. Danny Care, for instance, would have been sacked three times by now by Harlequins. There is no doubt in my mind there have been some alcohol related incidents in most camps, be it international or with your province, but these things are dealt with internally more often than not.
What did Henson actually do? He got drunk on a flight, disrupted the other passengers but aside from that, we don’t know too much more. On the face of it, the puishment from the Blues could be construed as quite harsh, certainly in terms of rulings dished out by other clubs for not dissimilar incidents .
Then you start to dig deeper. This is Gavin Henson we are talking about here. How many chances does one man need? The former British and Irish Lion is now looking for his fourth club in little over a year. And what happened with his last club, Toulon? His contract wasn’t renewed after he served a suspension for instigating a fight with team-mates in a bar.
All truth be told, Henson has shown an increasingly declining appetite for rugby since he announced himself to the world stage when kicking the winning penalty against England in 2005 and smashing poor old Matthew Tait around the place.
Firstly there was the relationship with celebrity Charlotte Church, which propelled him to the tabloid front pages on a regular basis. Then came the reality shows. There have been three to date: 71 Degrees North, Strictly Come Dancing and The Bachelor.There have been various sabbaticals along the way, along with a charge or two from the police. These are not the kind of activities that would make Henson attractive to a coach.
Yet, given his undeniable talent, coaches has continued to take a chance on him, the latest being the Cardiff Blues. There is no doubting the ability of the man. This is a player that Matt Williams described as having more talent than Brian O’Driscoll at an early age. Speaking to Newstalk’s Off the Ball, Williams also said that he thought Henson had an addiction problem with alcolhol. This may well be the case but is that an excuse?
All said and done, Cardiff Blues have to do what is best for their club. They offered Gavin Henson another shot at redemption and he has let them down at one of the first hurdles by becoming disruptive on a flight directly after a loss and a week before the biggest match of their season.
Why should they put up this? It is not as if he is twenty-one anymore and ripping it up on the pitch. He is thirty years old, doesn’t seem to really care too much about the game and causes controversy seemingly everywhere he goes. Any coach will reaffirm that no one is bigger than the club and anybody who upsets the harmony of the dressing room is not welcome. That seems to be all henson does these days.
Gavin Henson has used his nine lives at this stage and it is no one’s fault but his own. A waste of talent, pure and simple.