Speaking with Matt Duffie post-game, you get a sense that he – and his head coach Tom Coventry – are still looking for Perfection from Harbour Rugby in 2018.
“I think, the perfect result, just not the ah… not the perfect performance of what we’ve been working on. We’re still leaking a lot of points out there which is frustrating.”
A 32-20 result at home was a positive. A positive outcome, over the sides three-match window of games. Two losses to higher ranked teams [Tasman and Canterbury] was followed by the victory on Sunday over Bay of Plenty.
That bonus point win had players and fans in a good mood following ‘club day’ at North Harbour Stadium. An afternoon to celebrate the region’s clubs and the future. Boys and girls walked the fields prior to the game, and then watched as Matt Duffie and James Parsons (above) led their side to a well-constructed win.
Matt Duffie; Still looking for Perfection from Harbour Rugby in 2018
“Collectively we just need to take some confidence out of that, we’ve played three games in one week – and their good sides. All of them. And we just need to build on this,” was the judgment of the outside back. His own game on this day had been halted after 60 minutes. A fall on his left shoulder seeing him end the match in the dugout.
“Ah that. I’ve had two surgeries on my shoulder, so who knows what is going on there. It’s just what it is”. And he deflected the attention towards his team. Duffie praised his forwards play. The scrum was aggressive, as was the team’s number eight, Hapakuki Moala-Liavaa.
“Unbelievable. He came out at halftime, and I think he had three carries inside a minute and a half.
“And he seriously broke tackles. It was insane!”
Gerard Cowley-Tuioti (see below) also made some good meters, and broke the line that allowed Bryn Hall to score the vital third try which established a lead over Bay of Plenty, that the opposition was unable to overcome.
Dillon Hunt and Murphy Taramia are also forwards who Duffie had choice words for. The forwards had made good meters that afternoon, however, Duffie spoke of how some of the backs were taking ball away from that area of the game (which was working well for them).
“The backs were taking the ball from the forwards. I think that’s something we need to work on. Just letting the forwards work through it”.
And for a back to acknowledge that, shows the awareness of the totality of the team game. Many commentators have admired his rugby-brain. Something brought from his years with the Melbourne Storm, and a good exposure to rugby union.
Captaincy a test of Rugby Character
Holding the co-captaincy has been a benefit for the player. A senior leader within the Blues franchise too, and even when given his opportunity to play for the All Blacks in their tour match against the French XV, he took advantage of that, scoring a try.
All those experiences have greatly benefitted his role. And he has observed plenty of positives from others in the Harbour team. When asked how he had seen the transition for inside center James Dargaville, he answered “I thought he has been really good. I thought we were a bit thin heading into this season, but since he’s turned up – he’s obviously very physical; he used to play number seven – he loves that part of the contact area.”
When asked if the side had missed Matt Vaega, he agreed totally. “Matty was probably one of our best players for the last two or three seasons”. And when Vaeaga was not picked up by the Blues, he made a similar choice to others, and had to take his talent elsewhere.
He spoke highly of Daniel Hilton-Jones, of Tevita Li and Shaun Stevenson. “Yeah Shauny, he backs himself all the time”. And the team think highly of Duffie, as he represents the province in their feature Super Rugby team, the Blues.
Re-signed for another season, and in his fourth year with Harbour, the respect being earned by Matt Duffie, through his actions, and deeds are clearly visible. A voice on the field and in team talks, Tom Coventry will need the player to display both his speed and versatility – seeing him compared to Ben Smith at times – to help his Mitre 10 Cup teams aspirations in 2018.
Matt Duffie has seen many Highlights in 2018
While sending Harbour Rugby into the Premiership semi-finals is the main focus, for the player, he would be pleased with continuing to play a major part in both his provincial, and Super Rugby teams.
One of the highlights which Matt Duffie will be recalled for in 2018, was his ‘front on tackle’ of Damian McKenzie. The direct hit, in fact, disabled Duffie for a minute but it was an example of an offensive-defence tackle. And, it made for a great GIF.
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When speaking to Duffie about his future with the Blues, he is looking towards 2019. Knowing that his provincial head coach will now be an assistant coach to Tana Umaga – alongside Leon MacDonald – the franchise has brought in Tom Coventry to realize his experience and; as much important for Duffie, James Parsons, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti and others, are the relationships.
And while speaking to Duffie you can see that he has frustrations, as much as wanting to return to the changing sheds and celebrate this win with his teammates. The culture is strong within the side, and heading down to Hawke’s Bay next Saturday, his side’s ambition to stay within semi-finals contention is still strong.
“We’re under pressure with the ladder. Get as many points as we can, so it’s good to get the five points.
“The thing is it’s two-fold for us; we want to pick up points, but at the end of the day, our performance is what matters.”
“We’ve still got so much more growth in this team, so that’s what we are going to work on.”
After a solid win, Harbour Rugby can still look for that perfect performance, after Week Five of the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup Premiership.
“Main photo credit”
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