Scott Fardy: when the tsunami hit, I remember saying, ‘Rugby people stay and help’

Scott Fardy is remembered for his heroics for Australia at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but less well known is the unstinting care he showed for the devastated population of Kamaishi in the wake of the horrific 2011 earthquake in Japan

At 2.46pm on March 11, 2011, Scott Fardy was participating in pre-season training for his Japanese club Kamaishi Seawaves when the world’s fourth most powerful earthquake, since records began in 1900, struck the nearby coast. Lasting six minutes, it measured 9.0-9.1 on the moment magnitude scale and the impact triggered tsunami waves reaching over 40 metres to decimate larges swathes of civilisation in eastern Japan, in a trice.

The most recent official statistics confirmed that the Great East Japan Earthquake – as it has been named – caused 15,896 deaths across 20 prefectures. Kamaishi was one of the hardest-hit cities, with the tally of fatalities exceeding 1,250 – almost 5 per cent of the local population – and three schools were inundated.Rugby people don’t turn their back when things are tough

The Australian embassy contacted Fardy and offered him a flight back to his homeland, but there was no way he was flying away from the danger zone – it is not in his caring character. “‘We can’t just leave now,’ I remember saying,” he tells the Telegraph and Dove Men+Care. “It’s part of the ethos of rugby: it’s a team effort, and rugby people are like that; they don’t turn their back when things are tough.”

Fardy, the 6ft 6in Leinster forward, will be recalled fondly in sporting history as one of the brightest stars of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. He shone as a tirelessly heroic backrower, helping Australia power to the Twickenham final, where they were ultimately bettered 34-17 by New Zealand.

In the 61st minute the Sydney-born blindside flanker was replaced, with the game finely balanced at 21-10, having given his all to the cause. Such a tournament of selflessness and bravery would have been of no surprise to anyone who witnessed his reaction when faced with that very different challenge in Japan four years earlier.

Fardy – then 26 – and his team-mates, still wearing Seawaves training kit, sped to the frontline of the disaster area, where the dead and displaced were being accounted for and the infrastructure lay in ruins, and “tried to help out where we could”. Displaying great maturity for his age, he led from the front, unloading essential supplies from trucks, and earned the highest respect from his colleagues and the wider Kamaishi community.

Former New Zealand international Pita Alatini, a centre at the club, recalls Fardy’s outstanding contribution in the face of such colossal crisis. “His compassionate side was huge, in terms of how he was just able to make sure he provided for others rather than himself,” he says. “A really caring and soft side came out [of Fardy] at that time.”It will be incredibly special and something the locals will always remember

Understandably, the experience hit the Fardy hard. “It wasn’t about making a personal sacrifice,” he says. “At the time I had a decision to make – whether to help or not – and it was an easy one. I just got on with it. The disaster has taught me about the fragility of life, and how lucky I am. I saw people’s whole livelihoods gone in an instant, families were torn apart.”

Amazingly, despite the disaster and upheaval, the Seawaves played a full part in the Japanese league that season. “Trying to get back to normal as quick as people could was important, and the team playing maybe signified that,” says Fardy, who moved to the Brumbies in Australia the following season and earned his first Wallabies cap a year later. “The team became a symbol of recovery. It was emotional.”

Emotions will be running high for Fardy when, next autumn, at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the rebuilt Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium hosts two tournament games. It will be “incredibly special” and something the locals “will always remember”, the 34-year-old suggests.

The new-look 16,187-capacity venue has been built on the grounds of a school that was flattened by the tsunami. “It has a story behind it,” adds Fardy, once again showing a caring side perhaps not normally associated with top international flankers. “Not many sporting grounds around the world have that. It creates a soul, and they will be emotional games … for so many people.”

This article was first published in The Telegraph in September 2018

Published by

Oliver Pickup

Multi-award-winning writer, content editor, ghostwriter, and TV and radio commentator (and occasional illustrator), specialising in technology, blockchain, startups, business, sport and culture. Founder of Pickup Media Limited. Interviewer of death row prisoners, legendary athletes, influential leaders, tech trendsetters, and cultural pioneers. By-lined in every English newspaper. Contributor to dozens of multinational publications.

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