'We've been made feel at home': Triggs happy to make emotional Leinster goodbye a long one

The Kiwi second row will run out at the RDS for the last time on Friday.

Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

THE EMOTION IS thick in Hayden Triggs’ voice as he is asked to contemplate his final match in the RDS.

And yet his speech doesn’t crackle or quiver. At the lump-in-throat moment, the imposing New Zealander instead seems to turn the volume up, exhaling to force a point through the obstruction.

The 35-year-old will be deep in the Leinster engine room on Friday night trying to squeeze one more game out of his Leinster tenure and his career. One certainty is that the match will be his last in the RDS – a chance to bid farewell not just to a club, but to a community that he feels immensely indebted to.

“Probably the first home game you play,” says Triggs when asked about his stand-out memories of the D4 ground.

“Coming in this morning was tough. I love the RDS. It’s steeped in tradition, there’s a lot of history around it. The fellas who are established here speak highly and fondly of it.

“It’s easy to get caught up with that and their experiences. You see a lot of photos around the club, all at the RDS and some great games that have gone on there.

“My experience has been that the fans are great, it’s a beautiful ground. I’m looking forward to it.”

Sport has an odd habit of bringing symmetry to landmark occasions. After making his debut for Leinster away to Treviso, Triggs’ first outing in Dublin was 20 minutes at the end of a 19 -15 win over Scarlets in November 2015. As it happens, that was a perfect example of what the Lower Hutt man loves about the support base in the eastern province.

“It certainly surprises me every week. Even in the depths of winter, it’s three quarters (full), if not full, depending on who you’re playing. The ground plays its part, but it’s really the people around it who show up and wave the flags that make things special.”

Triggs and his wife Mikala have experienced more grief in the past year than anyone should be subjected to; their infant daughter Stella died in October after being born prematurely.

The support he and his family have received from new found friends and neighbours in his adopted homeland mean Triggs is not in any rush back to the southern hemisphere when he bows out.

We tried our best to lay some roots here, but things being things and life being life, that hasn’t worked out. So we’ve decided we’re going to head home.

“I say that as if I’m sad about it. I can’t reiterate enough what Dublin and Leinster has done for our family. The people we’ve known, not just in the club, but around the community and around our kids’ school especially has made us feel at home. It’s been cool.

“I was doubting whether to come to Leinster, because I’d been to Japan and I went home and was enjoying that. I was stoked we made the decision to come here. But time moves on and things happen… we’re happy to go home, we’re looking forward to it.

“Saying that, we’re in no rush. When the season’s done, whenever that may be, we’ll take a bit of time around here and take a bit of time chilling out outside of the rugby environment. There’s a lot of great people we’ve met, so it’ll be good to have a pint with them before we go.”

Hayden Triggs Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

When Triggs moves back to New Zealand, Leinster will feel the loss acutely. The former military mechanic brings a hard-nosed old school sensibility to the team room while shaping a high-tempo, high-skilled gameplan from the tight five.

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“He’s a disciplinarian,” says Garry Ringrose, 13 years Triggs’ junior, with a warm smile. “That’s one of his roles outside of being a second row on the weekends, he keeps everyone in check.

If you miss physio or you’re late for meetings or anything, he makes sure you don’t get away with it. You’ll be down for a dice roll then.

“Certainly he’s going to be missed because he’s great craic around the changing room. Brings a sense of camaraderie and brings everyone together.”

With any luck, Triggs will be able to perform that and his more tangible on-field roles more than just once before hanging up his boots and setting off home.

For the RDS, Friday is goodbye. But bricks, mortar, steel and seats come a long way down the pecking order behind people for a man as genuine as Hayden Triggs.

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Sean Farrell

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