Chris Henry's richly-deserved new contract shows that good guys do succeed
Chris Henry is one of rugby's all-round good guys. Hard as marble on the pitch and a total gentleman off it.
He is everything your mother would have wanted your best schoolmate to be – open, honest, friendly, courteous, perfectly mannered and all with a winning smile.
He is the perfect role model – brave, committed, disciplined, self-sacrificial in the interests of the team. You can't buy what the Malone, Ulster and Ireland back-row forward gives voluntarily, because for him to play at any of those three levels is a labour of love.
In pro sport, sometimes one meets prima donnas; Henry is their Nemisis. He knows that in the stands and on the terraces at Ravenhill there are any number of young men who would give almost anything to be as good as he is. But they, in turn, know that no matter how much they might be willing to give, it would be insufficient to make them what he is.
To Chris Henry, to play for Ulster is a privilege, so representing his province is not something he takes lightly. Quite the opposite – such is the prestige and importance he attaches to it that he regards it as a role deserving of his best. Always.
His approach to off-field responsibilities is equally committed, be it time spent with sponsors, supporters or in aid of a charity. As with playing, he views such situations as opportunities to do Ulster proud.
Following yesterday's press conference at Newforge I was lucky enough to encounter him on his way to afternoon training. Just minutes earlier having learned that he had signed a three-year contract extension, I congratulated him on that.
The reaction said all that need be said of the man – HE thanked ME for congratulating HIM!
One of the things people most admire about Henry is that there is no ego at play. He is as down to earth as you could ever hope to find. That someone so conspicuous on the field – by virtue of his tireless work-rate and consistently high level of performance – is so demure and unassuming on the other side of the touchline is quite remarkable.
For all of those reasons I am delighted he will be with Ulster until June 2017 at least. He is the sort of player – and the type of man – around whom a team can be built. Why? Because he leads by setting an example others know to be worth trying to emulate.
A graduate of the Hughes Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy, he is another of the home-grown boys who has done – and continues to do – well for his province, his country.
Like I said, you can't buy what he gives voluntarily.