Billy Holland: Munster 2007-2021, 245 appearances...
LAST week I watched the eye-opening documentary about cycling drug cheat Lance Armstrong.
It showed just how corrupt the sport was back then and clearly depicted that Armstrong wasn’t the only top-class cyclist who used performance-enhancing drugs to accomplish their lust for glory.
After this highly recommended piece of filmography by Marina Zenovich, I was left scratching my head as to whether I was in awe of Armstrong’s callous approach towards winning, or if I would like to send him to the bottom of a septic tank because of the way he treated people.
In the end, I was left pointing firmly towards the former. Now, you might well ask yourself why I would even mention a man like Billy Holland in the same article as Armstrong?
I wanted someone who is the polar opposite to this unsung Munster icon and Armstrong fit the bill perfectly.
When a player like Billy Holland moves on and hangs up his jersey, he's leaving a big hole to fill. However, he's set the standard now for the next generation.
If you were to analyse the DNA of a player with Billy’s attitude and approach in a sporting and personal context, you would find traces of elements that every mother, father, brother, sister, wife, and teammate would describe if asked to put together the ideal human.
And, the reason why his boots won’t be that hard to fill is because of how clear, precise, and easy to understand the example he set as a player is for the next generation to follow.
Whether the youth of tomorrow have the courage and commitment levels to follow Holland’s example is a completely different article and one that I would question.
I would be lying if I were to say all but the majority of players who play the game at a professional level would always want to depart from their club by leaving their jersey in a better position than where they had picked it up from; Billy has certainly succeeded in that.
Some are only in it for the money and that is understandable because of how short their career can be, but for most, it’s all about the team, supporters, and the club they represent; Holland was certainly one of these players.
Never one to chase the limelight and put himself forward for self-promotion in order to create an image for himself, Billy just went about his business in a manner that gained him the respect of every single player he played with and every opponent he locked horns with.
To have the respect of your fellow teammates is one thing, but to have the respect of your adversaries is something very special and this places Holland in a very rear assemblage; Anthony Foley, Paul O’Connell, and Ronan O’Gara to name but a few.
Any player who can go through a 14-year professional rugby career and come out the other side without the aid of a walking stick and remembering what he did yesterday, is either extremely lucky or incredibly disciplined and dedicated.
I think in this case we all know it was the latter that has allowed Holland to become one of Munster’s most iconic figures and if there are any young aspiring athletes out there looking at sport as a method of earning a crust, can I suggest they choose Billy Holland as their role model.
Holland may look back at his career and lament the amount of gold medals that were never placed over his head, however, as time passes, he will soon learn that the respect he has earned, not only as a player and a team-mate, but also as a person will far out-weigh all the gold that has ever passed through the gates of Fort Knox.
What Billy Holland does next is only something he and his family can answer and if he decides to walk away from the game and focus on something different, I don’t think there is anyone who would not wish him well.
I would love to see him remain in the game because of his knowledge and drive and if I were Johann van Graan or Munster’s CEO Ian Flanagan, I’d be looking to keep Billy on the Munster pay role for as long as I could.
Coaching may well be a completely different ball game to playing the game, but Billy is a rather unique individual and the Munster blood that flows through his veins is exactly what Munster needs.
The highest compliment I could give any person is that I’d be happy to have Billy as my son or if someone of his ilk was to walk through the door holding my daughter’s hand.
I think I would be fairly happy to assume that everyone in the rugby fraternity would want to wish Billy and his family all the luck in the world in whatever road he chooses to follow.