Matt Heaton was named rugby player of the year for the Canadian team.
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Matt Heaton does not have the most glamorous role as a Rugby Canada player, but his game is key; so much so, that the player from Godmanchester was named player of the year by the national team.
“This nomination is a nice reward for all my efforts over the years,” stated Heaton. “I left Canada to play in the UK four years ago solely for the purpose of improving my game. This prize represents, in a big way, all the sacrifices I had to make to achieve my goals.”
Heaton plays a defensive role which serves to connect attackers and the back row in an offensive strategy. He plays side flanker, not a particularly attractive position. “I tend to work behind the scenes in a game,” he explained. “My role is mainly defensive; if my opponents have trouble advancing the game, I can say – mission accomplished.”
The Rugby Canada team did not have it easy last year. A new head-coach was brought in, but at the same time injuries decimated the lineup. The lack of depth, notably in experienced players, caused problems for the team. “I don’t want to offend the players who were brought in, because you have to start somewhere, but the numbers in the national selections had to be under 10 per player,” he emphasized. “So, we had practically an entire team of new players.”
Heaton has progressed in rugby since high school. He started out with the Spartans at Chateauguay Valley Regional High School because he thought that rugby would get him into football sooner. “In the end, I loved rugby a lot more than football,” He admitted. “I think the fact that you’re involved in the whole game is what attracted me to the sport. You have to know how to play offence and defence as well as everything in between.”
His talent has opened doors to a career on the other side of the Atlantic where he plays with Darlington Mowden Park. “It’s a long season, but I have the opportunity to play different styles of game which means it’s never boring,” he said. “It’s100% clear that I’ve become a better player since being there. I play 30 games a year at a much higher level than you find in Canada. So, it’s not hard to improve in these conditions.”
Translated by Cathleen Johnston