Sadness and not schadenfreude
Tom Hamilton
April 2, 2012
Wales' Gavin Henson stretches the Ireland defence, Wales v Ireland, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, March 21, 2009
Gavin Henson in full flight for Wales seems an age ago © Getty Images

Cardiff Blues' decision to sack Gavin Henson was a done deal as soon as he boarded a flight back from the team's match in Glasgow the worse for wear after extending his post-match drinking until the early hours. Misbehaviour on the plane just underlined how Henson himself failed to have any grasp on what was demanded of him as a professional sportsman whose stock of goodwill was almost exhausted.

Today's announcement was predictable, correct and a marker, and one which probably marks the end of the Henson saga.

On his day he was gloriously talented; had he possessed more self control he could have become one of the Welsh greats. But he has never been able to conquer his demons and this time they may have won for good.

When Henson joined the Blues he admitted that they had taken a punt on him saying: "I can understand why people talk about last chance saloons," he said. "I'm nearly 30 and I've taken a lot of time out of the game so there are huge question marks. I have a lot to prove to myself and everyone else." He went on to talk about Lions tours and the next World Cup. He even did enough to be recalled to the Wales squad.

But while he is able to talk up his own game - sparse appearances on the field in the past few years have failed to back up his bold assertions. Jaunts on reality television - the refuge of the washed up - may have helped his bank balance but they hardly straightened out Henson's profile as a serious sportsman.

"To get a standing ovation and to get to the semi-finals of Strictly was a great feeling. It tops any rugby moment, even winning the Six Nations." The world according to Henson

Everyone makes mistakes. Danny Care was another risking going down a similar route, but in Care's case he helped banish the lurid headlines with a match-winning performance for Harlequins against Saracens in front of 83,000 on Saturday. Care is far from out of the woods, but the case of Henson comes as a poignant reminder to those wanting to achieve a place in the sport's history; managing an off-field profile is just as important as backing it up on the field.

At 30, time is against Henson. Two high-profile sackings within a year have left him close to unemployable. Who would want to face having to deal with the massive baggage he would bring with him? While rugby union needs players like Henson, he has taken too much from the sport and not contributed in return.

The key part he played in Wales' 2005 Grand Slam illustrated his undoubted huge ability and promised a glittering future. But in his moment of triumph he released a misguided and controversial autobiography. That sums him up. An incredibly talented player but one who never quite understood what the game stood for or demanded. The latest and potentially last twist in the tale of Henson should be greeted with sadness and not schadenfreude.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

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