THE measure of Dave Dennis’ character is seen when he should be down. It’s here, says Nick Phipps, that Dennis is still up.

And not just up, but giving away whatever of himself he can muster.

“In a nutshell that’s the kind of bloke he is,” Phipps says.

Phipps knows from experience. At two of the more memorable moments of his footy career — the start and the proudest — Dennis was there, struck down with injury but still giving.

The start was in 2008, when Dennis was entitled to be kicking stones. After a knee reconstruction in 2007, he’d suffered the cruel blow of back-to-back ACL injuries in early 2008, threatening to end a professional career before it had even started.

Dennis put his hand up to coach the Sydney Uni Colts team, which had a few promising types: Phipps, Bernard Foley, Sam Carter and Paddy Ryan.

“He would have been so disappointed but his words were he wanted to give back to a place that had given so much to him,” Phipps recalls.

Dave Dennis in the Blue & Gold hoops

Phipps saw it again seven years later when, with extra cruel timing, lady luck again kicked Dennis where it hurts.

Dennis was now captain of the Waratahs and on the eve of the 2014 Super Rugby finals, he blew his knee again. Dennis would be limited to hobbling on stage to help raise NSW’s first ever Super Rugby title a few weeks later.

“Even in 2014 when he busted his knee just before the finals, he would come in every morning and cooked breakfast for all the blokes before training. He had to get up at 5am,” Phipps said.

“He is a giver. He wants to make sure people around him are in a good space.”

Milestones come and go in rugby but when Dennis [ran] on for his 100th game for NSW on Saturday night, there [were] be justifiable fist-pumps around the Waratahs world. Finally, a nice guy finishing first.

“My memory of playing with him was on the field an incredibly hard-worker, and off the field, an extremely likeable, good-natured bloke,” former Waratahs captain Phil Waugh says.

“He had some huge setbacks at the front end of his career but you have to admire he perseverance to get to the position he is in now.”

Dennis becomes just the 11th Waratah in history to play 100 games, in his tenth and last season for the club. The 30-year-old is off to Exeter in 2017.

Hailing from Richmond, Dennis moved to Sydney Uni and after his early knee problems, established himself as a hard-edged back rower/lock with the Waratahs. He was never much in the headlines but that only proved his worth to guys like Wycliff Palu.

“They are the most important guys in a team, I reckon. Doing all the s**ters and stuff like that,” Palu says. “They’re not in the limelight but you don’t win if you don’t have them.”

The grunt was recognised enough for Dennis to win a Test debut in 2012, and 17 more Wallabies caps.

But Dennis’ edge, and squad-wide respect, were also recognised by new coach Michael Cheika in 2013. He took a poll of who the players thought should be his captain, and Dennis’ name was on so many he stopped counting halfway through.

The reason why is repeated by many of his past and present teammates.

Dave Dennis kindly donated his time to hold a private coaching clinic, along with Paddy Ryan, as a prize for the SUFC Finals Lunch 

“He relates to all types of people and all walks of life,” former NSW centre Tom Carter says. “He is passionate about getting the best out of everyone.”

Dennis and Waratahs prop Jeremy Tilse played together in colts, and have spent the last ten seasons together at the Tahs.

Where Dennis battled injury, Tilse has endured limited game-time and only reached his 50 caps this year. No guessing who kept him up.

“He never fails to puts the team and the players around him before himself,” Tilse said.