Highlander Dixon looks to broaden his game
Southland Stags No 8 Elliot Dixon hopes to use the impetus gained during last year's Maori All Black tour to propel him into a run-on spot in the Highlanders this season.
Dixon started all three games for the Jamie Joseph-coached Maori side - against the Leicester Tigers, a Championship XV and Canada - but it's more Super Rugby game time in Joseph's Highlanders team which is now on the mind of the 23-year-old.
"It was an awesome experience; it was a great honour to get named in the team; and then to play three games in a row was pretty awesome as well," Dixon said.
"It gives you confidence, especially with Jamie being the coach as well, it gives me confidence that I'm getting closer [to the Highlanders].
"I suppose it comes down to these pre-season games and how we fit with each other, combinations and stuff like that."
Heading into his third season with the Highlanders, the former New Zealand age group representative feels ready to make an impact after injuries spoilt the past two years.
"I've been involved in Super Rugby for coming up three years now," Dixon said.
"A couple of unlucky injuries have kept me out of playing big games but this year my goal, after making Maoris, is to get into that 22 and start getting game time week-in, week-out."
Having previously played as a specialist No 8, Dixon has struggled to force his way into the match day squad behind last year's outstanding contributor, Nasi Manu.
However, Dixon has plans to develop his game to provide the Highlanders with utility value at blindside or even at lock.
"I suppose I'm looking at covering more positions so I can be a six-eight, or even a lock. I'm trying to broaden my skill set so I can get on to the bench and then play my way into a starting spot," he said.
"That's what Jamie wants - a bit more utility from me; learning different positions and knowing the roles."
Away from the game, Dixon has bought a house in Mosgiel where he's living with his partner.
The ability to leave rugby behind at the end of the day had been a positive move, he said, and he now enjoys settling into his "man cave" with its blacked-out window and big screen TV to indulge in a bit of Call of Duty on the PlayStation. The Highlanders have a few gamers on the roster but there's been precious little time to develop any online battles during a busy pre-season.
Dixon started back earlier than his Maori All Black team-mates to ensure a small muscular tear in his thigh was properly rehabbed and he has put that injury behind him.
The Highlanders' pre-season campaign starts against the Chiefs at Taupo's Owen Delany Park on February 2, with the season proper kicking off against the defending champions at Dunedin Stadium on February 22.
The Southland Times