Reds torture motivates prop Ben Franks
Verbally abused, physically battered and travel-weary, Ben Franks probably wished he could evaporate after last year's Super final defeat to the Reds.
Instead, the Crusaders prop was forced to loiter at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium and glare at Reds skipper James Horwill and his team-mates as they exhorted the 52,000-strong crowd to crank up the celebrations.
Franks had good reason to be in a foul mood; while sitting on the reserves bench he endured the constant taunts of the Queensland fans, and when he took the field he was unable to prevent their team running out 18-13 winners.
Although he has been bagged by some boisterous supporters in South Africa in the past, Franks said they were playful puppies compared with the parochial Brisbane crowd.
"I just had some woman screaming in my ear the whole time," he said. "After all the travel we had done and everything like that it took a lot to keep my mouth shut. I can't remember exactly what she said, but it was a whole range of things. Yeah, they gave us an earful."
Little of it, he indicated, should be repeated in a public forum. He also knew better than to enter the debate.
"I have only said something in return once and half the stand started abusing me afterwards, so I learned not to say anything after that," he said with a laugh.
But he struggled to find much humour in the memory of watching the Reds celebrate their win. Emotionally and physically sapped from the constant travel because of the earthquakes, he could only stare at his opponents and reflect on the defeat.
"I remember those things; they stick in my mind. I'm used to teams celebrating and so they should, they just won a final, but I suppose it hurt a little bit more because we had travelled so much and it was a final kick in the guts.
"But the Reds played the perfect season, led the competition most of the way and got to stay at home for the last four or five weeks, and we couldn't. I suppose when you see guys celebrating and you are disappointed it does hurt a bit."
When the two sides meet at AMI Stadium on Sunday Franks shouldn't lack for motivation if he cares to recollect those victory dances.
And one of his enduring memories of when the Crusaders sat in the changing shed after that defeat was what wasn't said. "It was just quiet, it was just a draining season. We had done just so much to get to that point and it felt like we deserved to do better – but it was not meant to be.
"When I retire I will probably look back and think, wow, that was quite an amazing season."
- © Fairfax NZ News