Liam Messam has to be rugby's best role model. His selflessness and determination are beyond the paramaters in which his peers operate.

How many others would have been able to respond to missing out on Olympic selection with such honesty, integrity and dignity? Messam didn't sulk, hissy fit or bad mouth the process, the outcome or New Zealand sevens coach Gordon Tietjens.

He said he had no regrets because he gave it everything and it wasn't enough. It felt a bit like he gave it the Gallic shrug, puffed his cheeks and in a nano second was ready to get back into it with the Chiefs.

This sort of reaction is rarely seen in an age of vanity and entitlement. The more common reaction is a bitter tweet, a veiled threat to storm off to an overseas club and a withdrawal from public life.


And it's not the first time Messam has shown an exemplary attitude and response in the wake of personal disappointment. He was the unluckiest man in 2011 when the All Blacks ditched him from their World Cup squad late in the piece for Victor Vito.

His response then was to train the house down with the Chiefs and lead them to their first Super Rugby title in 2012. He played better than he ever had but was initially unwanted by the All Blacks in June 2012. Again, there was no anger or dismay from Messam - just a conviction to hang in there and take his chance should it ever come.

Which it did, for the third test when injuries opened the door. He came straight into the All Blacks' starting XV and played the game of his career in the 60-0 demolition of Ireland. Against all predictions and probabilities, Messam made the All Blacks No 6 jersey his from June 2012 until the return of Jerome Kaino in 2014 and did so because his heart was never held hostage by his ego.

Messam, by virtue of his ability to process hurt and channel it effectively, sets behavioural standards that should force everyone with any connection to rugby or sport to challenge their own reactions and views to every perceived or real adversity or setback they encounter.

In a world where parents have to be taught how to behave on the sidelines, Messam is the guiding light on how to retain perspective. His All Blacks dream smashed in 2011, he vowed only to work harder. His Olympic dream smashed in 2016, he vowed only to work harder.

Sport isn't fair and nor is it so serious as to justify misplacing the moral compass when injustice strikes. Fate can be both kind and cruel and true champions make peace with that, accepting both with equal grace.

True champions are those who have the resolve to endure in silence decisions they don't like, have the inner strength to start again when the goals they have chased are no longer theirs, can be emotionally shattered on a personal level and yet still find it within themselves to wish others every success and true champions take responsibility for their actions and don't push blame elsewhere.

Messam doesn't need an Olympic medal around his neck to be considered a true champion.