Home and Away: Leinster’s Scott Fardy and singer Penelope Austin are Ireland’s Aussie golden couple

Scott Fardy and Penelope Austin for LIFE magazine
Scott Fardy and Penelope Austin for LIFE magazine
Scott Fardy and Penelope Austin for LIFE magazine
Penelope Austin for LIFE magazine
Scott Fardy and Penelope Austin for LIFE magazine
Scott Fardy and Penelope Austin for LIFE magazine
Scott and Penelope Fardy at the Leinster Awards ball at the InterContinental Dublin

Last October, the night before Leinster played Montpelier in the Champions Cup, Scott Fardy said to his very pregnant wife, Penelope Austin, that if the baby came that night, it would be the worst timing ever.

Of course, Penelope’s waters broke that night, and baby August Fardy was born just 13 minutes before his Leinster flanker father would have played his first European game with his new northern-hemisphere team.

True, it was bad timing and Scott missed the match, but everyone was OK, and that was all that mattered. They’d had a baby, despite previously being told that Penelope would struggle to conceive. And there would be other games.

Penelope and Scott brought August home to their apartment in Ballsbridge, where they had relocated from their native Australia only a matter of months earlier, and all was well.

Except that it wasn’t. Penelope started having headaches, and returned to hospital in terrible pain.

“They discovered that my brain had only been getting a very small percentage of blood for days,” Penelope says. “It was funny, because it went from, ‘It’s alright, you only have a headache’, to, when they found out what it was, suddenly 20 doctors were in the room, and I was whisked away, and it was serious.”

Scott Fardy and Penelope Austin for LIFE magazineScott Fardy and Penelope Austin for LIFE magazine

Scott Fardy and Penelope Austin for LIFE magazine

Doctors discovered quickly that Penelope had torn the arteries in her spine during labour. “It was from pushing with chin to chest,” she says, explaining that with everything else that was going on, she didn’t even notice it happen. “So I got separated from the boys and had to go the neurological ward for, like, four or five days.

“Stroke was the big fear, and it was scary,” Penelope adds, saying that this was managed by a lot of blood thinners and strict warnings about avoiding exertion. “They told me not to lift anything heavier than 10lbs,” she says, “but August was 10lbs 3oz when he was born.”

While Penelope was in hospital initially, Scott was at home with August. They had Penelope’s aunt visiting, who has been like a mother to her since her own mother’s death when Penelope was a teenager, but really, Scott had to learn quickly how to cope.

“And it was great in a sense,” Penelope says, “because Scott learned how to be a father very quickly in that time, doing baths, changes and coconut-oil rubs, and he stayed doing all that through the whole season. He was amazing, really, because emotionally it was a tough time, and it took me six months to come right, but there he was, doing all that and winning cups and going all-out on the pitch.”

Opposites attract

Scott nods, in a mock self-congratulatory way. He won’t deny that it was a difficult time, but you realise quickly that he’s not a bloke to make a big deal of things. A man-mountain to his wife’s petite-ness, they are like opposites sitting side by side, and not just physically. While Penelope fizzes with energy and chat, Scott is

Scott Fardy and Penelope Austin for LIFE magazineScott Fardy and Penelope Austin for LIFE magazine

Scott Fardy and Penelope Austin for LIFE magazine

ultra-laid-back, droll and unflappable.

Opposites, perhaps, but complementary opposites. Committed, driven people, they have separately achieved a lot in their adult lives, but together in the last five years, they have crammed in more than most.

In the last two years alone, they got married, moved

to Ireland, had a baby, and lived through Penelope’s debilitation after August’s birth. It has been a

roller coaster, but neither seems exhausted by it.

If anything, right now, they are ready for a new adventure. Scott has had almost a year to establish himself with Leinster and in Ireland, and now, no longer either pregnant or ill, Penelope is keen to kick off her musical career here.

After talking to this pair, who are touchy-feely but also teasing and a little piss-taking together, one comes away with the impression that our encounter has been mostly about kick-starting Penelope’s career here.

Penelope Austin for LIFE magazinePenelope Austin for LIFE magazine

Penelope Austin for LIFE magazine

After all, the move from Oz to Ireland was relatively smooth and seamless for Scott. He came here and slotted into a rugby community and a world that he understood. The fundamentals of his life remained relatively the same, while Penelope’s world was utterly altered. Not only did she come here pregnant and then as a new mother, but she left Australia when her music career was flourishing.

Now, settled into motherhood and restored to health, it is, perhaps, Penelope’s turn to make a go of Europe.

In their native Australia, Penelope enjoyed a career

as a songwriter of some note, writing songs for Delta Goodrem and Tina Arena, as well as artists on The

X Factor and The Voice Australia. She lived and worked successfully in New York and LA, and before they left Oz, Penelope had worked with JJ Abrams on a track that appeared on all Australian screenings of the film Star Trek Into Darkness.

Further, Penelope was starting to step out from behind the scenes and go centre-stage, and her song, Gem, snowballed after it appeared on Home and Away.

Despite all of these strings to her bow, five years ago, when she caught Scott Fardy’s eye on social media, he had never heard of her.

It started on Instagram, where they liked a few of each other’s pictures and, contradicting his nonchalant attitude, Scott sussed her out a little further. He knew they had a mutual friend in the Canberra Brumbies team — media manager Elliot Woods. Scott asked Woods about Penelope at training one day.

“Elliot looked at me and said, ‘Nah, she’s too good for ya’,” Scott laughs. And, yes, he amusedly concurs, he kind of took this as a challenge.

Scott and Penelope Fardy at the Leinster Awards ball at the InterContinental DublinScott and Penelope Fardy at the Leinster Awards ball at the InterContinental Dublin

Scott and Penelope Fardy at the Leinster Awards ball at the InterContinental Dublin

Quiet persistence

“And then I saw Elliot a few weeks after,” Penelope interjects, “and he said, ‘What’s going on with you and Fards?’ And I said, ‘Uh, nothing, don’t even know the guy.’ And he said, ‘Don’t go there; the guy’s no good.’

“So then it was like a kid being told not to touch a hotplate,” Penny says, “you

just wanted to touch it. So we went for it. We went on our first date, and I was considerably late, and I’m not normally. I was meeting JJ Abrams that week and my head was in that, and I wasn’t really drinking, and I wasn’t much fun. And I wasn’t really into him.”

Scott says he hadn’t heard of Penelope, and she insists she was clueless about Scott and rugby.

“Still is,” smiles Scott, affectionately rolling his eyes. “No point even talking to her about it. At one stage, she thought I was an upside-down flanker or something.”

“It might have been a good thing that I wasn’t impressed,” Penelope adds, “because he probably had girls throwing themselves at him all the time; I mean, look at him.”

Scott blushes, though he claims it’s Irish sunburn.

In the end, it was Scott’s quiet persistence that won over Penelope.

After that date, Scott sent Penelope a text every day.

“Every day for a month, asking, ‘How was your day?’” she says. “And I thought, ‘Oh my god, this guy is so boring’. I said to my friends, ‘How was your day? Four words. Could he be any more beige?’ But then something clicked, because I realised that every day this guy had checked in.”

“Consistent,” says Scott. “I’m consistent.”

Penelope went to visit Scott in Canberra and they fell in love very quickly, she says. Both had been single for a long time. In fact, she adds, Scott had never really had a girlfriend.

Scott takes this sharing of information in his stride, which is impressive, and goes on to say that, for him, it was simply a question of the right girl at the right time. He knew Penelope was the right girl, so he went for it. That’s how he approaches life; you feel he takes an uncomplicated view, and doesn’t see the point of doing otherwise.

Scott and Penelope got married in Australia in December of 2016, when he had already agreed to come to play with Leinster.

“The club came to me through my management,” Scott explains, “and made an offer. I knew what a great club it was, and I’d been to Dublin a few times and really enjoyed it as a city, and liked the set-up here. So then I had to convince her it was the right move.”

That wasn’t too difficult, apparently.

The unknown

“I think she had thoughts of the south of France,” he laughs, “but the most important thing to me was to travel a bit and experience different things in my career, as it might be coming towards the end of it. And I knew that this was a great club and a great city, and it’s been great so far.”

Scott was coming here to a set-up that he knew and understood, but Penelope was plunging into the unknown and, by that stage, she was pregnant.

Pregnancy was a surprise to Scott and Penelope. Due to severe endometriosis, she had been told that she was unlikely ever to conceive naturally.

“We’re very grateful to have Augie because of that,” says Penelope. “And because I was told that I wouldn’t conceive without help, babies weren’t really on our radar when we were talking about coming over here.

“So we got married, and on our honeymoon we thought, ‘Well, we may as well go rogue, because it’s not going to happen, I won’t get pregnant’,” she continues. “And then we got home from our honeymoon and I thought, ‘Marriage really does change things: all of a sudden I’m angry all the time and I don’t really like him very much’. So he encouraged me to do a pregnancy test, and we were so surprised and thrilled when it was positive.”

Scott, maybe characteristically, hadn’t worried about whether or not they would be able have a baby. He believed it would happen in time, and was laid-back about it. Penelope laughs, and admits she had most certainly worried about it, and she was thrilled but terrified to become a mother; what if it just spoiled everything, was her fear.

“To be fair, when we decided to move here, I was itching to get out of Australia again,” Penelope says. “Before I met Scott, I was living in New York and

Los Angeles for music, and London as well, so I was used to packing up and moving countries. So it wasn’t hard. However, what you don’t know before you fall pregnant is that things change a lot before and after you have the baby. I wouldn’t say I was lonely, but I realised, oh wow, the support network of people who know you and who can calm you and reassure you is very valuable.”

“But I didn’t miss family and friends in Australia to the point it was making me sad,” Penelope says, adding that the wives and partners of the other Leinster players were very good and kept up the contact and connection through all her postnatal illness, too.

Back to work

It wasn’t until late this spring, when Penelope really emerged from that time of illness, that she felt the itch to work again.

“Before I became pregnant and before we moved here, I was looking forward

to basing myself in the northern hemisphere,” Penelope says. “But not long before we left Australia, I was working with a label and finally focusing on being the artist, after writing for so long for other people. So. I recorded and travelled the world with that music, and that was cool. And then I was pregnant and we’d signed this contract over here, and they were, like, ‘Oh my god, we’re ready to go, but now you’re going to have a baby and move to Ireland’.

“They told me when I was settled and ready to release a single, to let them know. Then everything else happened,” she says. “But now I have an album I’m working on and want to get out there, and things are starting to happen again.”

Penelope has been back and forth to London and has had meetings with her label, and has connected with people in the music business here. She met “the Snow Patrol boys” recently and would love to cross paths with them professionally again in the future.

“I’ve connected with Bressie,” Penelope says, “and would love if something

came of it. In January, I was part of this songwriting camp that was coordinated by a group of guys in the music industry here, who brought together artists from all around the country. I was an artist or topliner in the session. I was working with Mark McCabe and a female artist from The X Factor, and we ended up writing for her.

“I think Bressie’s a really poetic writer and is really great with melody,” she adds, “so I’d love to collaborate with him for something for myself as well as other people. But I’m over to London a little bit more now and reconnecting with all my previous stars, and with new sessions. It’s a great feeling. It’s given me a bit of a buzz. You know when you start feeling like yourself again after a baby, and it’s good?”

They both laugh about the evenings Scott came home from training in the last six months to find Penelope talking non-stop at him for an hour. She might not have talked to another adult since he left that morning, she laughs, adding that she’s not even sure where she found her “material” after a day with an infant.

“Now I’m back and I’m probably over-filling our calendar with socialising and travelling and everything,” she says, and Scott nods, but happily.

He’s happy that she’s back, and keen to see Penelope make her mark in the old world where they’ve made their new life.

Sunday Indo Life Magazine

!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+’://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js’;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, ‘script’, ‘twitter-wjs’);