Oh, baby! Wallabies, Barnes will long remember June 16
Wallabies snatch victory over Wales
The Wallabies celebrate winning the Test. Photo: Getty Images
At midday on Saturday, an emotionally drained Berrick Barnes was holding his newborn premature baby at the Sydney Children's Hospital in Randwick. Test football was the last thing on his mind.
Ten hours later in Melbourne, Barnes was surrounded by well-wishers - so appreciative of his central role in one of Australian rugby's most important recent Test triumphs.
In between, Barnes was involved in several white-knuckle taxi rides, had a ''quick kip'' on the Sydney-Melbourne flight, weaved his way between several trams on Collins Street to get to the team meeting on time, booted through 17 points, set up the best try in the Test, started hobbling ''like a bullrider'' when his leg cramped up, missed a shot that could have lost the Wallabies the game, was announced the man of the match, and then witnessed from the sideline his replacement Mike Harris finish this most exceptional of days off by kicking the winning penalty. No one, not even master Hollywood scriptwriter William Goldman, could have conjured this.
Big day out … Berrick Barnes had no time to scratch himself. Photo: Getty Images
And even yesterday Barnes was still trying to come to terms with his Academy Award performance for a leading role in the best rugby tear-jerker seen in years.
What a momentous 24 hours. After flying back to Sydney on Friday to attend the birth of his and wife Bec's first child, who had arrived six weeks early, Barnes somehow had to compose himself, get back to Melbourne in time and then be the Wallabies playmaker against the most streetwise of opponents. He had little sleep, his emotions were in the basket-case category, he was even struggling to concentrate on the Test.
But it all came together, enabling the most gregarious of Wallabies to put down June 16, 2012, as the best day of his life. And it inspired all those around him. Rob Horne, his Waratahs teammate and the man Barnes put through for their only try, said there was high excitement when the new father arrived at the team meeting, two hours before kick-off. ''It was a great lift for us. For Berrick to get through what he did and see him so uplifted by the experience, well we fed off that. I feel lucky to be part of his special night because that's something we'll never forget,'' Horne said.
Barnes walked into the team room ''and they were all in there in a big huddle, with the headphones on and music blaring. And I came in with my civvies on. Then I got changed in the corner while Robbie [Deans] started to speak''.
But he was still concerned. ''Bec and I were under the illusion the baby was still several weeks away. Then after the captain's run on Friday, I got a call saying there was a chance we'd go tomorrow, so I rushed home again. Bec was pretty emotional about it all. It was all pretty unexpected and as a first-time mum she was worried. As I was. You don't know what to expect.''
Archie Barnes arrived around midnight, weighing 1.93 kilograms. ''A lot of guys miss their first-born baby because they're at work or at the pub. At least I wasn't one of them. It was so special to be there. I certainly had Archie in my thoughts last night even on the field. It is definitely the best buzz you can have, but you just don't realise how draining it all is … and I didn't even push the baby out.
''During the game I had to rely on the adrenalin rush to get through. I really had doubts when I was coming back to Melbourne. It was all about just not letting anyone down and I was more relieved than anything at the end of the game that I had contributed.'' Bec and Berrick Barnes certainly delivered.