McKenzie making most of his short Chiefs stint

BEN STRANG
Last updated 05:00 22/01/2014
Marty McKenzie
MIKE SCOTT/Fairfax NZ
OUT TO IMPRESS: Marty McKenzie is hoping to impress during the next twist in his young career.

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It's all about impressing and improving for Marty McKenzie as he looks to make the most of a short stint training with the Chiefs.

The 21-year-old Southland fullback started training with the Chiefs on Monday as temporary injury cover, coming after a gruelling Gordon Tietjens training camp with the New Zealand Sevens team at Mt Maunganui last week.

While the sevens camp has McKenzie feeling fit coming into the Chiefs environment, he said he is learning the calls and slowly trying to impress.

"[Monday] was more of a learning day just getting involved with the systems, and learning all the calls and that, but the teams been very welcoming since I've been here," McKenzie said.

"It's a pleasure to be here. I was in touch with the Chiefs later on in the year last year, and they kind of hinted that I might be needed earlier on this year."

The call came after New Years, asking McKenzie to come in for training from January 6, although with the national sevens tournament and NZ Sevens commitments he couldn't start until this week.

He said the change from sevens rugby to the 15-a-side game hasn't been difficult, and his fitness is improved this year because of the sevens training.

"I'm feeling reasonably fit, probably better than I was at the start of last year. It is the first camp I've ever been to, but definitely, a lot different to 15s.

"Being mainly a 15s player my whole career, it's quite easy to fit back into that mould."

Chiefs assistant coach Wayne Smith said the team has had a policy of bringing young players in to train over the past two seasons, as a view to the future.

"Trainings are trials for us. We're looking at the character of the guys, their quality, clearly, their ability to be resilient and work hard. They're working for the future.

"When injuries come as they always do, there is potential for players to come into the squad, but in general they're looking at the future, and we're looking at the future."

Smith said McKenzie is in as genuine injury cover, but brings youth as well as experience to the preseason preparations.

"Marty is a replacement player for Robbie [Robinson], and obviously Tom Marshall has a thumb injury as well, and Gareth Anscombe with a shoulder injury.

"It's great to have him because he is young, but he's got a wee bit of experience, and he's a helluva fit having been in the sevens programme."

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McKenzie was let go by the Blues at the end of last year, with the Auckland franchise making space for star edition Benji Marshall.

Despite his previous allegiances north of the Bombays, McKenzie said he is yet to get any stick from his new team mates.

"Nothing as of yet, but I've only been here two days. They're pretty good, a good bunch of lads so I don't expect anything.

"It's another great opportunity. Another door opens ... in the career, so I'm just looking to make the most of the time while I'm here and see where it goes.

"I'll just be doing my bit for the team where I can help out, and hoping to impress."

McKenzie is expected to remain with the Chiefs for three more weeks, depending on the return of injured players to the side.

- Fairfax Media

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