You don't need to read the papers or catch the broadcast news to form the view that there are a lot of sick people in the world. A lot of them fire anonymous abuse on social media but the more dangerous you can come face to face with anywhere. Even though I've had a page for a while, I'm only recently after getting into 'The Facebook'. I prefer the twitter for the news. However as a result of Mark Zuckerberg's internet phenomenon I ended up reconnecting with a few folks in the past few days. One of those was Michelle Payne. Michelle did an outstanding job at Thomond Park Stadium before returning to South Africa with her husband who created his fair share of great headlines for the province since his move to Ireland. Shaun born in South Africa, but had Irish roots in county Sligo and played Super 12 with Natal Sharks and Heineken Cup rugby with Swansea.
He joined Munster as a 31 year old having spent a number of seasons with Welsh club Swansea whom he joined having previously played 90 times for Natal Sharks. His fathers mother hails from Yeats country and Shaun arrived in Ireland accompanied by his wife Michelle and 16 month old son Dylan. Who from Munster doesn't remember the painful defeats and then the heroic all conquering performances he was part of, before going on to manage the squad and experience European glory from the sidelines.
He will forever be classed as a hero like the rest of that squad.
However Michelle revealed that her family are still trying to process a senseless attack on her hero husband in mid January 2015.
'I often get asked questions or listen to statements such as: how are you doing? I don’t know how you able to carry on the way you are. Why don’t you leave SA, go back overseas… We don’t have all the answers but I can honestly say that the reason we are coping is because of the amazing support and help we have received from family and friends that we are surrounded by. Now that our kids have been told the exact details of the night (with the help of our trauma counselor) I see no harm in sharing - with the hope it makes people more aware and observant.
Briefly –this is what happened:
'After Shaun had dropped the kids off with their friends for a sleepover he was hijacked outside the house by 4 men at gunpoint. Their initial demand was to enter the house where the kids were – any father's reaction would be to protect your children and he diverted their attention by saying he had no access into the house and emphasised there were allot dogs and children. They then forced him into the car and drove to our house (they knew where we lived as the Vehicle Registration Camera’s later showed us they had followed him from our house earlier that evening). I won’t go into detail but they held us hostage, assaulted and tazer us then proceeded to clean us out of most of our electronic equipment, jewelry and anything of value.'
Traumatic but the Munster legend looks to have escaped with his life.
Says Michelle 'The police that evening were incredible, the flying squad managed to recover some of our items within a few hours thanks to the technology of the vehicle recognition cameras. 3 days later my car was recovered.
Shaun’s sister and her husband made sure I got great medical care that evening and have since helped us with all the admin involved. My parents who flew in within 24 hours to be by our side and have been so supportive every day - it can’t be easy for any parents when their children experience something like this. My in-laws who selflessly took us into their home, after scaling down - having a family of 4 and 2 dogs move in for a few weeks must have been tough. My brother who spent a few days helping us move out that rented house.'
Thankfully it seems the Payne family are coming to realise the esteem in which they are held in Ireland. 'To all our friends who have supported us in so many ways I couldn't possibly list them all. Please know that every text message, email and phone call from all over the world is so appreciated and helped us deal with this.'
This has been a test but Michelle and the family are coming out with a postive outlook.
'I am truly blessed with the man I married. Every day Shaun would work his best to keep our lives on track - being self employed and 2 young kids we can’t allow life to stop - and thanks to him I have realised I am allot stronger than I ever thought I was.'
Needless to say home is where the heart is and despite that Michelle remains optimistic.
'After living abroad for over 13 years we were delighted to finally come home 2.5 years ago. South Africa is who we are, these are our people. It’s about a sense of belonging. It’s about family. It is a country filled with so much diversity and beauty.
We don’t know what the future holds and in our minds we know that God has a greater plan for us all – so for now we will just embrace what this country offers us and hope we as friends and a community work together and help make things better.'
From Ireland to Cape Town our thoughts are with you Michelle, Shaun and family. Don't forget you will always have a second home here.
Let's remind Shaun and his family of the great experiences we have shared in sport that we still cherish.
His email is email@example.com