CARL Hayman is not the sort of man who sheds a tear, but the imposing Kiwi prop admits he will be full of sadness when he prepares for his final game for Newcastle Falcons against London Wasps this afternoon.
Hayman has signed for French club Toulon for next season, where he will link up again with another former Falcon star Jonny Wilkinson, but he has nothing but positive things to say about Newcastle as a club and a city.
Although the 30-year-old – who has been coaching with Blyth this season – is unlikely to return as a player, he has not ruled out the possibility of returning to Tyneside in some capacity in the future.
“It’s been interesting, a great experience,” said Hayman, who has turned down the chance to play in next year’s World Cup in New Zealand to play on in Europe.
“In terms of the results, it probably hasn’t been ideal and the team isn’t in the position in the table we would like to be.
“But on the whole, I’ve really enjoyed my time here in the North East. It’s a part of my life I’ll look back on with fond memories.”
As someone who found life in the spotlight in New Zealand difficult to cope with, Hayman has found the relative anonymity living in Newcastle very refreshing and he has fallen in love with the surrounding countryside.
He said: “I could live here again. A few of the boys were talking about it the other day and saying if you had to pick somewhere in England to play and live, we’d have the North East at the top of the list.
“The only thing is that it’s bloody cold, but you just have to wrap up.
“I think you can ask all the foreign guys who have come here, they are all well received and really enjoy the place themselves. You never know what might happen in the future.
“I’ve enjoyed living in the North East. There are a few reasons. I like the size of Newcastle as a city. It’s big enough without having the day-to-day problems of city life.
“There’s also a great coastline up and down the place, which helps because a few of us like surfing. There’s a great community, especially around the rugby club.
“I think there are people with a really genuine interest in being supporters of the club and fans of rugby.
“I don’t know if that’s something you really see in other places – it’s certainly the first time I’ve experienced that really close relationship with the club. People are pretty diehard about it.”
Hayman’s signing in 2007 was supposed to add forward muscle to an exciting back division, but things have not gone as well as planned for the team.
Nevertheless, the former Highlander is convinced Newcastle can still push for major honours again in the future, even without the sort of financial investment some of their rivals receive.
He said: “Obviously there’s an investment element to it, but as an organisation I think there’s a lot you can do that doesn’t cost you a lot.
“I’m talking in terms of ensuring everyone is on the same wavelength and moving in the same direction to achieve whatever we want to achieve.
“It’s obviously a blend of those things. You can hold your hand out of the window and hope some investment comes, but you can’t really rely on it.
“You need to keep looking at everything involved in the club and keep evolving. It’s like any other business, you’re always evaluating things, breaking them down and looking at what you can do to improve them.
“As long as everyone sticks by their principles, there’s no limit on what could be achieved. The funding would be nice, to be able to invest in infrastructure and squad players, but you can’t rely on that.”