WHIRLWIND does not begin to describe the speed and frenetic state of affairs around Sean Maitland since his arrival in Scotland in October, but the new British and Irish Lions wing has had plenty of seismic experience.
On the pitch, Maitland ripped through defences in Super Rugby for five seasons with the Crusaders before suffering injury, losing his place and then deciding last summer that it was time to forget his All Blacks dream and turn to his Scottish heritage. He has quickly added to Glasgow’s potency in attack, served notice of his threat in the new Scotland back three and has now been called up by Warren Gatland to tour Australia.
But, off the park, Maitland has had rough times which have raised his awareness of the privileged life he is experiencing. “It was a rocky time in Christchurch a couple of years ago and it did open my eyes big time to life,” he said, looking back to the earthquake that rocked the South Island’s main city and killed 185 people.
“Christchurch holds a special place in my heart and the tragedy of the earthquake in 2011 was devastating. A lot of people lost their lives, and we didn’t have a home as a team because our stadium was destroyed.
“So there have been some ups and downs in my career, off the field with the earthquake and, on it with injuries.
“Coming over here I set some new goals and one was to represent Scotland. And it happened to be a British and Irish Lions year and the stars have aligned and everything’s worked out. But it’s just the beginning. We want to represent our clubs, our country, Scotland, and our families most of all by pushing to get in that Test team.”
The grandson of a Govan welder, life has changed dramatically for Maitland since he pitched up in his family’s old city. But Kiwi coach Gatland admitted that his knowledge of the wing/full-back from back home played a part in his selection.
“We were really impressed with Sean in the Six Nations,” said Gatland. “He’s a player that didn’t make a lot of mistakes.
“But he has a pedigree, coming through the New Zealand system with one of their top schools, New Zealand schoolboys and then the under-20s. I actually selected him for Waikato when he was still at school.
“He’s come here, he’s a big man who can do the 100 metres in under 11 seconds and he has been playing well for Glasgow, and he has experience of playing Super Rugby in Australia. He understands the conditions and will be a good addition to the squad.”
Maitland wore a rather stunned look after watching his name appear on the TV screen in the Scotstoun dressing room.
“I was pretty nervous in there.When Hoggy’s name got read out I was happy for him, then it was the wingers, and I didn’t know what to say. I was just full of happiness. It was such a surreal feeling. All the boys were getting around me and they were the first people I thanked – the Glasgow boys and coaches – because without them this wouldn’t be possible.
“To represent Scotland was a dream come true, for me and my family, and to be named in the Lions is the icing on the cake.”
The dream for the family back in New Zealand now might be to see Maitland face his cousin, Quade Cooper, in the opening Test in Brisbane next month.
“Hopefully, he sorts it out and gets named in the Wallabies,” Maitland said of the much-maligned stand-off. “I’m sure he will. He’s having a great season and is a class player.”