Surprising many, Matt Duffie will in fact leave the Melbourne Storm at season’s end but not to another NRL club like many thought.
Instead, he will take up a deal with Super Rugby side, the Auckland Blues, following eight NRL appearances so far this year.
The 25-year old Kiwi international has played a total of 61 games for the club and felt honoured to have represented the Storm for the last 7 years.
â€œI will dearly miss everyone involved with Melbourne Storm â€“ the players, the fans and everyone within the Club who helps magic happen each week,” said Duffie.
â€œTo have been part of the Storm culture for seven years means I am already the luckiest kid in my street.â€
The decision was one Duffie felt was right for him and the club supported his wishes.
â€œWe are disappointed to see Matt leave, he was in our plans for the future, however we totally understand and fully respect the personal decision he has made,” said Storm’s Director of Football, Frank Ponissi.
â€œMatt has worked extremely hard to make his return to football and itâ€™s been fantastic to see him back out on the field doing well these last eight weeks, itâ€™s been one of, if not the best, feel good story of the year.
â€œHe is a much liked member of our Club by players, staff and members and we wish him all the very best for his move in 2016.â€
Having played Union before, Duffie felt like now was the right time to get in touch with the game again and to play under Tana Umaga is something he looks forward to.
â€œI was looking for a new challenge and it is the right timing to come back to rugby. The chance to return home to Auckland and to play for the Blues under Tana Umaga is very exciting,â€ Duffie said.
â€œAt the same time, I am indebted to the Storm organisation which has been brilliant in every respect, and helped develop me to the player I am today.
â€œI have a rugby background but more importantly I think that the skill set to play at wing or fullback in rugby league is very similar to rugby.â€
Signed to play fullback in light of a departing player, coach Umaga is pleased to have Duffie on board.
â€œMatt is a fantastic athlete, and was a highly promising young rugby player,â€ said Umaga.
â€œHe has developed into an excellent professional rugby league player at fullback and wing and that experience in those positions fits ideally to the role of an outside back in rugby.
â€œWe are very excited to have him join the Blues, not just for his playing ability but as someone who has played top level professional sport for a highly successful organisation. He is also a leader who will add real direction to our young backs.â€