Aussie gets physical with Kiwis

Nathan Oakley
Nathan Oakley

Nathan Oakley is a young man on a mission – a rugby mission – and he's come a very long way to achieve his goals.

The 19-year-old Moutere and Marlborough Red Devils flanker hails from Perth in Western Australia where he played for the Palmyra Rugby Club.

A specialist openside flanker, Oakley was pointed in Marlborough's direction earlier this year by former Red Devils selector John Taylor, his coach at Palmyra.

"John was asking me what my plans were this year and asked if I was interested in coming over to New Zealand and having a crack at ITM Cup. I said `Yes, sounds good'. He spoke to Leon MacDonald (Tasman Makos assistant coach) and it went from there," Oakley said.

He's made a very good impression at Moutere with his strong training ethics and has obviously impressed the Marlborough rugby selectors because yesterday's match against North Canterbury was his third in a row in the red jersey.

The game is different here to what he's used to in Perth but there's no complaints about that.

"I enjoy it. It's a lot more physical and up front over here. It's a bit quicker in Perth. They like to play it in the backs. It's more forward-oriented here which is good and I prefer it here. I like the physical stuff."

While the Moutere premiers have struggled this year and languish at the bottom of the points table, Oakley is still enjoying the rugby experience.

"It's been a bit of a struggle, but they are a good bunch of guys. The club's looked after me. They are good people and hopefully next year's better."

While Moutere has struggled to get full musters at trainings, Oakley certainly hasn't been a shirker in that department. One of his club coaches, Laurin Gane, had nothing but praise for his young teenage charge.

"He's actually brought a new dimension to our forward pack. We haven't had a specialist openside flanker for two or three years. He's been good. He gets stuck in, he's tough and a good club man, a good young fellow and he's a trainer. He eats the right food, doesn't drink much and just wants to improve his rugby."

Oakley enjoyed yesterday's match against North Canterbury and the whole Marlborough Red Devils experience so far and is well aware of the history behind the red jersey which he wears with pride.

He admits he's unlikely to achieve his goal of making the Tasman Makos this year but that won't put him off coming back next year.

"I wasn't expecting to make the Makos this year. I knew if I was going to make it it would take a couple of years because I'm only 19."

The talented loosie plans to return to Perth for a couple of months over summer then return to Blenheim at the end of next February to continue his rugby development and his quest to play ITM Cup.

The Marlborough Express