PAT Richards is going through a whirlwind of emotions at the moment, and it isn’t just because his season is drawing to a close.
The worshipped winger is likely to be playing his last game in this year’s World Cup unless he can help his side perform a minor miracle against Australia on Saturday.
And to make matters even more personal than facing the country of his birth, points machine Richards is being watched by an army of friends and family before returning home Down Under.
“I have about 40 friends and family from Ireland coming to watch and a few friends coming over from the UK as well,” said Richards on the clash which will take place at Limerick’s Thomond Park.
It will be the 2010 Man of Steel’s first appearance on the Emerald Isle as he did not appear in Ireland’s 2011 loss to France at the same venue - and for the Australian to play against the Kanagroos (he qualifies for Ireland through his parents) the match creates a surreal end to his time on this side of the globe.
“Playing in front of them and against Australia - hopefully we can go out and show a bit of heart and show what it means playing for the jersey,” Richards continued.
“Australia is where I was born. I have an Australian accent and I’m going back to live there so yeah I have a lot of feelings for Australia as well.
“There will be mixed emotions but I’m going out there and looking forward to the occasion as it will probably be a few years before I get over to this part of the world again.
“I’ve never played in Ireland before so that’s going to be a big occasion as well.”
Once the hooter sounds for full time - assuming as expected, the tournament favourites do beat Ireland, Richards will jet to link-up with Wests Tigers, the club he left to join Wigan for the start of the 2006 season.
Since then, the young NRL Grand Final winner has grown-up to become the club’s third all time highest points scorer, win two Challenge Cups and two grand Finals - and he is going to miss Wigan.
Aside from his rugby exploits, where he has seen through a period of incredible transition which turned Wigan into mid-table finishers to champions, Richards is also going to miss the place and its people.
“It’s a bit sad driving around the streets of Wigan thinking ‘this will be the last time I’ll be here for a while’,” he acknowledged.
“I’m going to miss the place and miss all the friends I’ve made too.
“The supports been incredible since the Grand Final–people stopping me to congratulate me everywhere I go.
“They are wishing me well and thanking me for my time but I have loved every minute I’ve spent here.”