Many people had started selling shares in Dewi Lake just 12 months ago as the young Ospreys player desperately tried to master the most important part of his job.
Can’t throw with precision?
It was almost as if a lifeguard couldn’t swim.
The ball often ended up anywhere but where it should have ended up when Lake aimed. Whatever the opposite of having a golden arm, he seemed to have it. An evening game saw a string of deliveries from the former Wales U20 captain go hopelessly astray. If he was a cricketer, “large” would have been called every time.
Read more: Stuart Barnes criticizes Wales’ “unhealthy obsession”
But the progress he has made in this area since and in other parts of the game has been remarkable. Last weekend against the Scarlets, he helped oversee a 100% line-up in a performance filled with excellence across the board, with two tries, 17 runs that resulted in 33 yards and a clean defensive sheet.
Relentless physics flavored everything Lake did. If the Scarlets had knocked down a brick wall on the pitch, he probably would have smashed it straight down.
This all happened in front of Wales coaches with Lake taking on direct Wales rival Ryan Elias, who himself has had a great season. You can read the player ratings for the game here.
Pivac is his own man up for selection and he and Jonathan Humphreys would have enjoyed the character Elias showed as he struggled to get in shape after being the target of flak at the start of fall testing.
But Lake put down a marker at Swansea.com Stadium that will be hard to ignore.
At present, it looks a decent bet to start for Wales when they play the first of three Tests against South Africa this summer.
How did he take such a leap forward with his game? “We have set up specialist coaching with him in the form of Simon Hardy, who has worked with England, Australia, Scotland and various Premiership clubs,” said the Ospreys head coach, Toby Booth. “I’ve worked with Simon before. He is a friend of mine and a recognized trainer.
“We brought him in not just for Dewi, but for all of our prostitutes to work on their throwing skills.
“An independent coach often acts as a psychologist for a player, especially in the position that Dewi plays, which is like a goalkeeper, without hiding. The ball has to be thrown in a big competition, so I think the having that support around him has definitely paid off, while he also has 12 more months of experience under a program that pushes the standards hard around lineup and scrums, where there’s no substitute for getting dirty and dirty.
“These things put together have helped him improve, but, ultimately, it’s his attitude and his desire to want to do it, to be the best and to make his way in the reckoning of the Land of Wales and being the number one hooker for the Ospreys – ultimately, that’s what drives it all.”
A school gymnastics champion good enough to compete nationally, Lake also enjoyed swimming, soccer, table tennis, and golf in his youth. He had played rugby in the back row before moving to hooker, the move requiring him to learn a new set of skills,
But at Booth, he had the right coach at the right time.
In his own playing days, the Ospreys head coach had converted from the back line to the No.2 position and as a coach he had helped two England players to come down the same path, both finishing as internationals, so it was convenient for Lake to have him around for the past two seasons.
“I have a story here,” he laughed.
“David Paice, who played for London Irish and played for England a few times, was a loose convert. We put the same support around him and got the same result.
“And Tom Dunn at Bath was similar in relation to a change of position. It’s about learning how to throw and learning the nuances of the game. The common denominator with all of these players, who have all played international rugby, is that they were incredible competitors and they didn’t weren’t going to let people stop them from climbing the ladder.
“So it’s a formula that I’ve already used successfully in different jobs and a similar result three times.”
At 22, Lake is still cutting his teeth in Test Rugby, but the 6-foot-1, 17th 4-pounder’s potential seems limitless.
Watch him play for the Ospreys against the Dragons at Swansea on Sunday. Bringing with him South African physicality, he sets out to score plays and savors the battle.
Most certainly, it is a young person who goes up.