YOU have seen the beard. You have seen the lion-hearted defence. You’ve watched the unheralded man of Australia’s much-hyped backrow put himself in the headlines with efforts that can’t stay hidden.
What you haven’t seen is Scott Fardy, crouched over and with his long arm around a frightened old Japanese woman who’d just lost everything in a tsunami.
Few have, and most of those who did witness it probably don’t remember the kindness. Paul Hodder saw it and will never forget.
“For a big man, in Japan you stand out,” Hodder explains.
“I remember a lot of the older folk were coming in to this place where they could get their water and things like that and there was ‘Fards’ putting his arm around these people. They were shell-shocked, and he’s was just comforting them. No-one told him to. No-one was watching, he just did it.
“Mate, it was pretty powerful.”
Hodder was Fardy’s coach for two years in 2010-11 when the pair were stationed at an anonymous rugby club in the seaside town in the Iwate prefecture, the Kamaishi Seawaves.
They lived in adjacent apartments so when their shared walls started shaking badly in March 2011, they rushed outside, looked at each other and wordlessly fled to the carpark.
It was a devastating 8.9 earthquake, and it would unleash a five-metre tsunami that rolled over Kamaishi’s seawall and destroyed half the small fishing town. Hundreds of lives were lost.
Fardy and teammates were safe a few kilometres inland but it was what happened in next few weeks that Hodder believes played a big role in Fardy progressing from an overlooked journeyman in Japan to starting in a Rugby World Cup final on Sunday morning.
“Pretty much every other foreign athlete in Japan was flown out, they left,” Hodder said from Auckland this week.
“It’s probably a rugby thing but we were a community team. We thought: ‘We are a part of this place, we will stay and stick our hand up and help the people who support us’.”
Without power in freezing cold for a week and just “handfuls of rice” to eat, Fardy and teammates spent a “scary” seven days helping with recovery efforts, trying to ring home, locating the missing relatives of teammates and mourning the loss of a staff member.
He lost seven of his 113 kilograms but after a week, Australian Embassy officials arrived in his town and offered Fardy a car-ride out.
He declined and so did the rest of the Seawaves.
”We were so isolated and resources were scarce and so on so we just thought let’s just buckle down and help,” Hodder said.
“All along that coast thousands upon thousands of people lost everything. Their houses, family, friends. It was like a nuclear holocaust.”
Fardy helped build fires to keep people warm, helped with emergency relief and soaked up a huge dose of reality as he wrapped big levers of comfort around shell-shocked locals.
Read more on Fox Sports