After Aaron McPhee received his Maddison Trophy winner's medal last year he copped some friendly flak from his Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports teammates.
"You got that for 30 seconds work," one of them quipped.
While McPhee only played half a minute last year for Tanalised Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports because of shoulder and finger injuries those same teammates who threw the gibes his way can't help but notice the manner in which he has made up for lost time this season.
The rugged loosie who is focusing on the No 8 position this year produced his second player-of-the-match performance of the season in their 21-5 Tui Maddison Trophy second round win against Napier Technical at Tamatea Park on Saturday.
This was the feature game of his club's 130th birthday celebrations and it saw McPhee, 22, become the 11th weekly winner as the battle for the McDonalds-Hawke's Bay Today Club Rugby Players of the Year award continued.
"Having that time off last year freshened me up. I'm not going through the motions this season... I'm enjoying my rugby more," McPhee said.
A former Hawke's Bay age group rep who tasted Hurricanes title wins at under-16 and under-20 levels, McPhee, agreed he is starting to regain the form which saw him earn New Zealand under-20 team trials in 2014. The member of the 2011 Napier Boys' High School 1st XV which finished third equal in the national top four competition is confident about his club team's chances of retaining the Maddison Trophy in August.
"The skillsets are all there and all the boys are gelling together. The trust and belief levels have definitely increased from where they were a couple of weeks ago thanks to some recent team bonding and building stuff we have done."
McPhee admitted the arrival of talented openside flanker Pouvi Fatialofa to the club from Napier Old Boys Marist this season has boosted his game.
"Pouvi has done a lot for my game. I had some big battles with him over the years and I would rather have him on my team than playing against you. It's unfortunate size has counted against him when it comes to Magpies selection.
"My long-term goal is still to make the Magpies. I had one game for the Saracens off the bench last year and I'm still deciding whether to chase Saracens selection this year or go and play in the Heartland Championship."
While those decisions will have to be made by the end of the month, McPhee's immediate focus is Saturday's clash against the in-form Napier Old Boys Marist team at Park Island. He is looking forward to his clash with another promising loosie in his former NBHS 1st XV teammate Matt Gardiner.
"I last played against him when he was in the Manawatu under-20s. It's no secret NOBM have laid the platform but if we put in an 80-minute performance and stay on the same page it will be a pretty close game."
A win against NOBM will give him bragging rights in the Progressive Meats smoko room.
"I'm the sole Pirate and there are a lot of MAC boys. There's always plenty of banter leading up to the games against them."