From losing Premier Reserve finalist to Jim Brown Memorial Medal winner - Alex Barendregt couldn’t even dream up that reality in Amsterdam coffee shop.
On Saturday, the Billy Goats loosehead, affectionately known as “Dutchie”, became the only prop since All Black Jeff Toomaga-Allen in 2012 to win the player of the match in the Jubilee Cup final.
Old Boys University beat Norths 37-31 at the Petone Rec.
Barendregt was so overwhelmed by his personal triumph he only managed to exclaim a stunned expletive upon receiving the prize. Has the scale of his achievement sunk in yet?
“I'm an emotional man and I was so exhausted after the game I couldn't even speak, let alone address the crowd,” Barendreght laughed.
“I'm still a bit stunned, to be honest.”
Barendreght has essentially been injured 12 of the past 14 months - twice damaging his calf.
“My first game this season was the North's match in Round 12 of the Swindale Shield. I was injured at the end of the Swindale Shield last year and then did the same injury while on international duty in the Netherlands,” Barendreght laments.
OBU identified two players who could badly damage their prospects in the decider. Norths lock Chris Middleton hobbled off, strengthening the OBU lineout. Openside Du’Plessis Kirifi was a harder target to topple.
“Kirifi managed to get a lot of steals the last time we played Norths. We had to clean him out, hard, fast and often. That's the duty of the tight forwards and I guess I'm quite strong in that part of the game. I managed to bump him off the ball twice in the first five minutes. He was pretty quiet after that, until the second-half,” Barendregt explains.
In fact Kirifi was so loud in the second 40, Norths from 25-3 behind had a chance to win with the last play of the game. What happened in the final scrum?
“I managed to get a good grip of their tighthead and pop him up. Joel Hintz then pressured his opposite and their hooker struck the ball with his hand.” Barendregt recalls.
Before coming to New Zealand at the start of 2015 and settling at the Old Boys University club, Barendregt played for the Haagsche Rugby Club in the Hague. Rugby has a healthy following in the Netherlands and he compared the strength of Dutch rugby clubs to Hardham Cup level in Wellington.
Barendregt has appeared internationally for the Netherlands, filling all three positions in the front row of the scrum and making his debut at hooker in 2012 against Germany.
There’s plenty of New Zealanders playing in the Netherlands and in Europe. In fact, Barendregt recalls a match against a German side that fielded 14 New Zealanders. His first trip to New Zealand wasn’t supposed to last four years.
“Back in the Netherlands I played with a few kiwi friends and as soon as I injured my knee and had finished my Masters I thought I could do one big trip before I start working at home. I started training with my friends [including former Premier flanker Huey van Vliet] at OBU and I joined them for the season. I’m still here because I love it here!”
In 2015, Barendregt started 15 Premier matches and came off the bench in the second-half of the Jubilee Cup final win over Marist St Pat’s.
In the successful 2017 Jubilee Cup campaign he played eight Swindale Shield matches.
Off the field, Barendregt works as a commercial lawyer for a mortgage and insurance company in central Wellington, ironically doing occasional business with Jubilee Cup final referee Richard Gordon.
Another irony is that Finbarr Kerr-Newell whose been a mainstay in the one jersey for over 100 matches for OBU is presently on holiday in the Netherlands.