When one-Test Wallaby Kyle Godwin opted to come home after two years in Ireland last month, all he could think of was that there’s no way he’s ever going to end up in prison.
That remark came after his enforced two-week quarantine stint in a Perth hotel as COVID-19 slowed his return to the club he made his Super Rugby debut with way back in 2012.
“There are times when it is tough,” Godwin told RUGBY.com.au.
“To be honest, I wouldn’t want to do a crime and be a real prisoner - that’s what I was thinking about.
"Time passes by and you have a bit of time to think.”
Indeed it does and now the 27-year-old finds himself back in Perth, via Canberra with the Brumbies and Galway with Connacht, where former ACT and Australian sevens mentor Andy Friend is coaching.
Godwin’s career has very much come full-circle.
When he first arrived in Australian rugby, there were high hopes that the Zimbabwean-born centre would go on to become a long-serving Wallaby.
The irony was that when he left the Brumbies in July 2018, it seemed that the gifted centre was finally starting to live up to that hope.
In his final game for the Brumbies, Godwin helped the Brumbies carve up the Waratahs at the Sydney Football Stadium.
His 70-metre show and go that beat three Waratah defenders and chip and chase over Israel Folau was champagne rugby.
It was the kind of performance that left every Australian rugby fan scratching their head and a bitter taste in their mouth knowing that after two mediocre years at the Brumbies, he was off just as he started hitting his straps.
Even still, Godwin left intent on improving and becoming a more rounded player.
“I let Australian rugby to go overseas and really work on my game and hopefully come back a better player and that was pretty much my goal and hopefully I’ve come back a better player,” Godwin said.
He chose one of the harshest conditions in the world to ply his trade.
“When I arrived in Galway, for the first six weeks it rained every single day – and that was meant to be there summer,” he quips.
“I’d come from three weeks of pure sunshine and then it didn’t stop peeing with rain for six weeks.
“You learn how to play in the wet. You might get a damp ball during the early stages of the season in Queensland or the dew in Canberra, but over there you learn to play wet weather rugby especially in Galway where it rains and you’re exposed to the elements. You harness those skills and adapt accordingly.
“I got exposure to a number of positions there which I wouldn’t have necessarily got had I stayed in Australia. I played on the wing, played in the centres, I even played at 10, so I got exposure to a number of positions. It was a great experience.”
At least he had the pub to fall back on.
"They're always asking 'what the craic is' and they absolutely love a beer, especially a Guinness," Godwin recalls.
"In Galway, within a kilometre or two, I think there was about 100 bars. You’re not short of choice, you know what their favourite pastime is."
His return to Australian rugby comes when the future of the professional game is still very much in the balance.
He can’t quite put his finger on why he wanted to return other than to say he had a “deep desire to comeback” and that he "always had at the back of my mind that I'd love to come home".
Godwin has been linked to the Waratahs for 2021, who are on the hunt for some high calibre players following the exits of a flurry of top talent, including Kurtley Beale.
Perhaps it’s the rain or the cold waters of the North Atlantic Ocean that has seen him home. After all, a day in the ocean in the middle of winter is enough to send shivers down the spine to last a lifetime as he found out when he joined former Brumbies captain Jarrad Butler for charity ‘Freezebury’.
“The water gets absolutely freezing,” Godwin recalls.
“The boys do a thing called Freezebury during the month of February. In the first, you do one minute in the ocean, on the second you do two minutes, all the way up to the 28th where you do 28 minutes in the ocean.
“Jarrad Butler did it. I joined him on the 8th February and I thought I had hypothermia for about four weeks after that. The water there, in the winter months, it’s between four and seven degrees Celsius.”
Whatever it is that’s brought Godwin home, Australian rugby can benefit by his return.
The Force take on the Brumbies on Saturday July 25 at Leichhardt Oval, kicking off at 7:15pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Kayo Sports. Buy tickets here. Buy a Kayo subscription here.
This article was originally published on RUGBY.com.au.