Whatever the outcome of Albion’s important visit to Ivybridge on Saturday, one player will be celebrating whatever the result. Of course, both he and the club look for victory against second-place Ivybridge who are just six points ahead of Albion and with four matches in the league to play. These sides are now undoubtedly the only two in contention for a play-off place behind the runaway league leaders Cleve.
Matthew John Hastie – Albion’s 38 year old (almost 39!) – hooker is due to make his 250th 1st XV appearance for the club and thus will have earned a much sought after club cap.
Matt is in his 11th season with the club and to reach 250 games is a commendable effort, meaning that he has generally appeared in almost all 1st XV matches in many of the intervening seasons. Matt is a natural hooker but actually made his debut for the club as a flanker at St Mary’s Old Boys in the Pilkington Intermediate Cup in October 2003 in a 28-26 victory.
Matt followed his teammate Stu Woodhouse from Southern Districts Rugby Club in Sydney where he played 99 senior games including 15 in the Premiership. He has also appeared for West Harbour Club in Sydney with 60 senior appearances including 12 Premiership. In his youth he represented Sydney U19 XV.
Despite being our regular hooker over all of these seasons, Matt is a very resourceful player as likely to turn up in the middle or on the end of the three-quarter line as he is in the midst of a ruck or maul. Such canny anticipation and alertness has brought him many tries as this season’s 12 to date will prove – his overall tally of 82 tries in 250 games is clearly remarkable. Matt emphasises that it is his sharp focus and positional expertise which puts him in the right place at the right time. I always call him “ubiquitous” – his high motivation inspires his teammates and he is able to keep the team ticking over, picking up vital scores at important times.
During his Sydney days he played against Internationals of the calibre of Phil Kearns and David Campese and one of the highlights of his career there was winning the Reserve Grade Premiership for West Harbour against Michael Chleka’s Randwick – scoring two tries in the process – what else?
Matt thoroughly enjoyed Albion’s promotion from South West One to National League at the end of the 2004/5 season during which he scored a remarkable 20 tries and the bonus of a conversion and rates the win at Worthing where he scored the winning try as one of his Albion highlights. That he has three conversions on his score list perhaps emphasises his idle curiosity at doing the unusual for a hooker – I bet that he did not ask the skipper if he could take the kick.
At the end of the 2007/8 season Matt unexpectedly joined Taunton where he was immediately made captain and assisted in Taunton’s promotion to the then South West One, leading the side to an unbeaten season. He returned however to College Way in the midst of the 2009/10 season. A broken arm delayed his progress in October 2011 but he returned to full fitness with the usual strength and energy to maintain his regular appearances.
His ambition with Albion is now to secure a new promotion and he and all of the other players and coaches will be still pressing for the opportunity over these last four matches. He would also like to add a dropped goal to his collection. The club has history there – both Mike Hawkins – a prop – and Terry Innalls – a hooker – have dropped goals – both having charged down a 22 drop-out and been quick enough to react to score the goal.
It will be a proud day at Ivybridge for the evergreen hooker and he will be delighted that his mother Mary on holiday from Australia will be there to witness it. Plenty of time Matt to think of the 300 – hopefully Albion’s reconsolidation and success this season will have scotched any ideas of retirement. After all, you together with fellow testimonial celebrating colleagues Roly Bryant and Dan Kemmish have been the strong bridge between the old and the new playing regimes and our younger players certainly look up to you all for your guidance. We need to keep in there.
Matthew John Hastie Born Sydney, Australia 29.3.1976
Debut 18.10.2003 v St Marys Old Boys Pilkington Cup H W 28-26
50 v Oxford Harlequins (SW1) 2.4.2005 H W 66-14 (MH try)
100 v Newbury EDF Round 5 10.2.2007 H L 7-27
150 v Coney Hill N3SW 30.10.2010 H W 59-5
200 v Clevedon SW1W 6.4.2013 A W 21-15
249 v Drybrook Sw1W 7.3.2015 H W 15-10
2003-4 23 7 TC – 37
2004-5 30 20T C – 102
2005-6 31 12T – 60
2006-7 21 4T – 20
2007-8 24 2TC – 12
2009-10 13 4T – 20
2010-11 17 8T – 40
2011-12 16 T – 5
2012-13 27 8T – 40
2013-14 25 4T – 20
2014-15 (up to 19.3.15) 22 12T – 60
249 82T 3C 416
It is worth recalling Albion’s XV on Matt’s debut back in October 2003 and it was:-
Hake; Hancock M Ranson Knox S Triggol; Woodhouse Salmon; S Ranson (cap); M Taylor Hastie R Cox Northey Bryant Harwood Stiling. Replacement:Whitcombe.
Tries: Bryant Woodhouse Triggol.
Penalty: Hake 2 penalties and 1 conversion.