NRL: Young star can't wait to mark his idol

By Steve Deane

Since making his debut with the Storms this year, Matt Duffie has scored seven tries in 10 matches and averaged an impressive 105m a match. Photo / Getty Images
Since making his debut with the Storms this year, Matt Duffie has scored seven tries in 10 matches and averaged an impressive 105m a match. Photo / Getty Images

Sweep away all the garbage covering the Storm at the moment and below it you'll find some decent sporting values still exist at the tarnished club.

Take former Auckland under-18 rugby player Matt Duffie.

A lifelong Warriors fan, the fresh-faced 19-year-old is looking forward to marking idol Manu Vatuvei tonight because it will be fun. No, really. That's the word he used.

"Everyone is asking me if I am scared but I'm more excited to play against him," Duffie said. "He is an NRL All Star, he is massive, he is fast, he is obviously a great player so it should be fun."

Well, that's a new one.

"I watched him since he started playing and obviously everyone loves him. There are guys in there I used to watch like Simon Mannering who only a few years ago were my idols and they still are."

Duffie, who scored two tries on debut in the round seven 40-6 massacre of the Warriors, is certainly a breath of fresh air in these rather stinky league times.

Christchurch-born but having lived in Auckland for decent chunks of his young life, the former St Kentigern fullback is incorrectly viewed by some as a rugby convert who got away from an Auckland side that could certainly use his talent.

The reality is quite the opposite. Duffie is a league player who didn't get away.

The rangy winger played junior league for the Kaiapoi Bulldogs and Pakuranga Jaguars before accepting a scholarship to play rugby at St Kents.

While playing rugby he signed a scholarship deal with the Storm that meant he was committed to heading to Melbourne well before he was selected for Auckland's under-18 team.

His last game of rugby, coincidentally, was at Mt Smart stadium against Counties Manukau under-18s. After that it was off to Melbourne and a year or so of obscurity before he launched himself on the NRL scene with that eye-catching debut against the Warriors.

It said something about his effort that it wasn't completely lost in the furore raging around a Storm side that had just been stripped of its titles, points and reputation.

"It was a weird game, a weird week actually, being named in the side with all that stuff coming out. I wasn't really thinking about footy too much. That was probably a good thing."

And so another game against the Warriors and yet another weird week. When the Herald spoke to Duffie he was watching the televised announcement of the Storm's in-house salary cap audit.

Passing it off as "just more bullshit really", Duffie was confident the Storm could again rouse themselves to deal to the Warriors.

"The week has been pretty random. We have been supposed to hear about the stuff for two weeks now. So it has been pretty up and down but we should hopefully finish the season off good.

"I think come game day nothing is really different. The day before we just train as normal so not much changes. It is just the way people feel about what happened. We'll definitely go out and give it our all like always."

Duffie has been a fixture in the Storm side since making his debut, scoring seven tries in 10 matches and averaging an impressive 105m a match.

While the future of many of the Storm's players appears undecided as the club sheds players to get under the cap for next year, most scenarios project Duffie as staying at the club to help lead its recovery.

"There's a bunch of theories going around but at the moment it is all up in the air," he said.

"I really want to stay at the Storm and I'll do my best to do that. I've got a contract for next year so hopefully I'll be able to keep it."

- NZ Herald

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