Alfie Barbeary’s parents found a unique way to spur on their teenage son from within the Ricoh Arena – despite being unable to see him score a hat-trick on his first Premiership start in person.
For the third time since the Gallagher Premiership 2019/20 season resumed, Wasps played at their home stadium before no fans due to restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.
It denied Banbury residents Nick and Denise Barbeary the chance to see their 19-year-old son make another big step in his burgeoning career.
Having already recorded his first Premiership try as a substitute against Worcester Warriors last month, Barbeary crashed over three times in 16 second-half minutes as Wasps cantered to a 54-7 victory over local rivals Leicester Tigers.
There was little sign of the onslaught at the interval as Wasps came from behind to lead 14-7 with Barbeary making a solid, if not spectacular contribution across the opening 40 minutes.
But as he emerged from the changing rooms at half-time, the England U20 hooker spotted two familiar faces within the empty stadium.
“My mum and dad are watching at home,” he said. “I imagine they’re going a bit mental. I saw they sent a photo on the big screen so I saw them when I was coming out for half-time. It’s a dream come true. I just want to see what they’re saying really and get on the phone to them.”
Nick and Denise took the opportunity to make sure their faces were visible to their son by using the Seyu app which allows Wasps supporters to send in selfies that are then projected onto the big screen on matchdays.
Man-of-the-match Barbeary, who visited his family home in Banbury after the match to celebrate, started at blindside flanker rather than his primary position as hooker. He is hoping to emulate another notable former Wasp who could perform in both positions.
“I think I will be in more of a Ashley Johnson sort of role,” he said. “Just if they need me, I’ll play wherever really. But I think hooker will be my preferred, main position.
“I don’t mind where I play so long as though it’s not prop. I am really happy playing wherever. I feel comfortable wherever they put me. I’ve got great players around me who help me in every way. People like Jack Willis, Youngy [Thomas Young] and Brad [Shields] they’ve just helped me and are so supportive in learning a new role. I’ve got to take it in my stride really.”
After the match, Wasps head coach Lee Blackett labelled Barbeary’s second-half as ‘outstanding.
“He’s a big project,” he said. “He’s nowhere near the finished article. He’s got to keep working hard. He’s a talent, no doubt about that. There’s area of his game he’s got to keep working on. But as you saw , as an out-and-out rugby player, he’s a pretty good player.
“I thought Alfie had a bit of a mixed first half but he was outstanding in the second half. Fair play to him getting the hat-trick on debut.”
To find out how we scored Barbeary out of ten for last night’s performance, read our player ratings story by clicking here.