Chris Bentley: We should cherish every step the Chiefs take, just like Bea
BECOMING a father last year was the greatest moment in my life. To hold my wife Hayley's hand as she endured the agony and ecstasy of childbirth was as emotional a moment as I can ever recall.
Any parent will agree with my sentiments when I say that ever since life has been fantastic watching our little girl grow up.
I'll be honest and admit that the first few months weren't too great with the sleepless nights, a grumpy spouse and nappies... lots of nappies! However, since Bea beamed her first toothless smile, we both knew that we had embarked on an unbelievable adventure that would bring a lot of joy into our lives.
I remember when I was a youngster and my mother used to say to me "enjoy every moment son, it all goes so quickly. I turned around twice and you were fully grown."
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At the time I thought she was being overly sentimental but now I get where she was coming from. The first smile, the first word, the first step have all been and gone. Documented on phones, cameras and any other media device we have, but they will now remain just a memory.
My sheer elation when the little one climbed the stairs was an emotion that I just wanted to bottle and keep for more than the minute or so that it lasted.
Certainly all of the staff in the club office have had enough of me being the 'dad nause' recounting the latest amazing feat! I almost wish I was able to suspend time and revel in each milestone of the little one's growth, so fast are these landmarks coming and going.
This wanting to pause time is something I feel with the Chiefs, too. I appreciate they aren't as important as my child but they do hold a special place in my heart and it's the same for many other avid members of the Tribe.
Let's be honest, short of parenthood, there aren't many things that can make a grown man dress in a ridiculous headdress, paint his face and scream a war chant at the top of his lungs for 80 minutes, yet a lot of us do for this rugby team. So it was with a heavy heart that I missed the latest piece of history in the Chiefs' adventure.
There is still a part of me glowing from when we won the Championship play-off but in no time the landmarks began to come and go in quick succession. We won our first Premiership game, played our first game in Europe and got our first England cap in the professional era, yet the team continued to push on.
I remember writing last season about taking a moment to enjoy all of the success that the team are achieving, but such is the pace of improvement that as soon as you take a moment to get self-indulgent there is yet another defining moment. Indeed, just this Saturday was one of the greatest moments the club has ever witnessed.
I really do get excited about the Heineken Cup. It is the highest level of club rugby that we can compete in. The next level is full international rugby. There really are few clubs that will ever be able to boast at having made it here. To be here in only our third season as a Premiership club is unbelievable.
The coaching staff have not made too big a deal out of what took place in Llanelli but I feel that this really is a moment to cherish and recall in years to come. After all that the Chiefs have done, we have now won our first Heineken Cup game at only the third attempt!
Of course, such is the relentless nature of the modern game that the boys have it all to do again with the return visit from the Scarlets in what will no doubt be a rather special occasion as Sandy Park hosts only its second ever Heineken Cup match.
I would implore you to tell your family, friends and anyone else you come across to get to Sandy Park this Saturday and see the highest level of sport our region has ever witnessed take place as, like my mother implored me when I was a child, this special moment will soon be gone!
With regards the relentless nature of competition, I wanted to take a moment to wish Chris Whitehead all the best with his recovery from his neck operation.
Chris has had a fascinating tussle with the 'old bull' Neil Clark and 'captain smash' himself Simon Alcott for the No. 2 jersey but that will need to go on the back burner as he underwent a routine patch-up job on Tuesday. Chris has been a revelation this season, but in his absence the real strength of the squad will come to the fore as we may well get to be acquainted with yet another star of the future.
Jack Yeandle has been very impressive with the Braves and in training but has had to patiently bide his time. However, Chris' absence may provide the opportunity for another Devon lad to step up and claim first-team honours.
Finally, I wanted to give a quick mention to one of the academy members who saved me from a rather ignominious Thursday evening.
For the last two Thursdays, members of the squad have been out and about in Princesshay promoting the club's mid-season offers.
Last Thursday I was due to pop along and keep an eye on proceedings but we had a minor issue – nobody was able to come along as Big Chief.
At the last minute, Tom Cowan-Dickie stood up and volunteered his services and saved yours truly from being the biggest Big Chief we've ever seen. Thanks Tom!
Incidentally, the boys will once again be in town this Thursday to sign autographs, help with shopping decisions and, most importantly, offer the chance to win tickets to this weekend's game.
Be sure to pop along and say hello!
Until the next time, stay safe and enjoy your rugby.