Rathbone: Dos, one of rugby's greatest gifts

Super Rugby
Clyde Rathbone
by Clyde Rathbone

There are many household names in Australian Rugby - Wallaby number 791, Nic Henderson, isn’t one of them.

 

Henderson holds the Super Rugby record for playing the most matches without scoring a try (119).

 

It’s this kind of anti-fanfare that I suspect he’s secretly rather proud of. 

 

Nic, or Hendo (or Hendos, or just Dos) as he's known, was one of the first people I got to know after immigrating to Australia in 2002.

 

We were both just starting our rugby careers at the Brumbies and neither of us knew then that we would spend large parts of the next seven years bouncing around the globe together.

 

The first thing that struck me about Nic was his easy going nature. He was almost always smiling, cracking a joke or taking the mickey out of himself or one of his teammates.

 

He was, and remains, a great guy to have around a team environment.

Dos always found time for everyone. Photo: Getty ImagesHowever, Nic’s laid back nature and light hearted approach to life gave way when it came time to knuckle down. 

 

Hendo was one of the few athletes I played with who could and would consistently push himself to his physical limits.

 

Anyone who ever saw him perform the dreaded beep test knew they were watching a rare and impressive form of masochism and in many ways being able to tap into a deep resolve and mental toughness underpinned Hendo’s rugby career.

 

He was the guy every team needs. A no-frills grafter, a workhorse and every bit as dependable. 

 

Not long after meeting Dos I learnt that tragedy had struck him just as he was beginning to make a name for himself as a young rugby player.

 

Five of his closest friends decided to surprise him by attending the trial match he was playing. Tragically, on the way, they were involved in a fatal car accident. 

 

It is obvious that this event did much to shape the person Nic has become.

 

His passion for life is so clearly connected to the knowledge that our time is both fleeting and unpredictable.

 

He has always retained an admirable sense of perspective about life and what really matters.

 

Whatever, if any, good can come of tragedy I feel Dos has done well to harvest it.

 

Hendo invests in friendships in ways that are truly inspirational.

Good times with DosI’ve tried (and mostly failed) to dedicate myself to relationships in the way he does.

 

He will call you out of the blue, make arrangements to catch up, or simply message you some shared nonsense he knows you’ll appreciate.

 

Dos seems determined not to let people drift apart and friendships peter out. And for this, I know I'm not alone, in feeling extremely grateful. 

 

He is also in many ways quintessentially Australian, loving little more than a beer and a laugh with his mates, camping in the bush or sat in front of his favourite sporting event.

 

I’m tempted to call him a bogan and so I do. The Melbourne Rebels have retained retired senior players like no other Australian franchise.

 

Nic joined the likes of Stirling Mortlock and Lachie Mitchell when he remained on the Rebels payroll at the conclusion of his playing career.

 

As Victorian Rugby Union’s Elite Pathway and Coach Education Manager I’ve little doubt that Dos will give back to the game in spades and the game is lucky to have him. 

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