WHEN Gavin Henson finally grows up and looks back on the years that covered his potential playing career, you have to think he will conclude that he let a huge opportunity pass him by.
The latest of Henson’s ‘misdemeanours’ has resulted in a sacking from Cardiff Blues and it is hard to imagine any club will want to chance their arm on a player who gains plenty of attention but without playing an awful lot of rugby.
So it looks like the end of the road for Henson in terms of active service on the rugby field, but it is arguable whether that will bother him too much as his ‘playing career’ has been more of a victory for 21st century style celebrity status than it has been about sporting achievement.
It would be unfair to cast Henson as the only one to have been distracted by the bright lights, but his legacy provides a blueprint of how to remain famous and in the public eye without actually achieving that by doing what you are supposedly famous for.
If you are a sports fan you cannot help but ask the question ‘where did it all go wrong?’ when it comes to Henson.
In 2005 he was a shining light in a Welsh grand slam team – landing the winning points in an 11-9 win over England.
At this point a glittering future seemed to lie ahead playing rugby and with a modicum of application Henson would have been the Welsh version of Ireland’s Ronan O’Gara and so much more.
Instead the 2012 Six Nations finished with O’Gara an Irish legend and so integral to their thinking that they are struggling to let him go even though they possibly should, while Henson was never anywhere near being in the current Wales grand slam winning side despite the fact that at 30 he could easily have been a contender if he had kept his focus firmly on rugby.
Instead the man with the good looks that earned him newspaper column inches outside the sports pages, will not be mentioned in the same reverential tones as playing contemporaries such as Shane Williams or even Adam Jones in club bars up and down the Principality.
But what did distract him? You could blame the celebrity marriage to a well known singer, but why would Charlotte Church put you off your game any more than Victoria Adams – David Beckham seems to have little trouble turning the same scenario to his distinct financial advantage while remaining a top class international player.
However, Henson seems to have been easily swayed away from working at his game by his ‘advisers’ and convinced that a far better bet than training is to appear on Strictly Come Dancing and, even more cringeworthy, last year’s ‘The Batchelor’ – a programme with a more demeaning basic concept is hard to imagine.
So when the subject turns to rugby in pubs the length of Wales from Chepstow to Holyhead and they discuss the legends that country has produced, you have to feel that after noting the talents of Gareth Edwards, Barry John, JPR Williams and the rest, someone will then throw in Gavin Henson just to get a laugh.