Quin Strange relishes Mako momentum
by Peter Jones [Marlborough Weekly]
Despite Tasman reeling off six straight wins to open their 2019 Mitre 10 Cup season, Mako vice-captain Quinten Strange says there is no problem keeping the players’ feet firmly on the ground.
The Nelson College product, a Mako since 2016 and a Crusader since 2017, said while expectation and hype surrounding the team had increased as the wins stacked up, the feeling in camp was no different.
“Everyone in the squad are well-grounded and humble sort of guys … with the mindset of everyone wanting to keep getting better and learn, that’s helped us.
“We look at [match] reviews and we can see a lot of growth in our game through the whole squad.
“But rugby is a harsh game and if we don’t focus on getting better we will soon be spat out the other side … we are humble around that sort of stuff.”
He also pointed to the much-vaunted Mako team culture as a recipe, both for success and a way of ensuring no-one got ahead of themselves.
“Our off-field culture has been massive this year. It’s always been good, but this year, with many of the players having been together for a couple of years, everyone knows each other well … just having a great bond off the field makes what happens on the field so much easier. It’s probably shown in the fact that when you need to go to a dark place [on the field] the lads are prepared to go there.”
At just 23 years-of-age, the imposing lock forward is now one of the “veterans” in the team and has thrived in a leadership role during the past two seasons.
“We have always had the belief that we are good enough to [win the title] … we are excited by the opportunity we have created at this stage.
“The core group has been together since 2016 and we have come close [to winning the premiership] through those years, but this year we are just fully-focussed on us and want to get better and better each week.
“Everyone that had come into the squad this year has just added to the culture.”
The fact two of the Tasman coaching team, namely Andrew Goodman and Shane Christie, are the two most recent captains before current leader David Havili landed the role in 2017, has also added an invaluable cache of Mako experience to the mix.
“That is really good for our leadership group but, in saying that, we have different styles now to what they had and they both understand that … they are obviously great Mako men and great players themselves so they know what it takes to put winning performances together.
“On our short weeks they know how to look after the players … time on the feet during those weeks is reduced and looking after the body is stressed, but they put the foot down when they need to and everyone respects them. We have a great relationship with all the coaches.”
Having spent the last three Super seasons immersed in both the Crusaders’ and Mako communities, Strange says it is hard to compare the two camps.
“It’s a huge honour to be part of both teams, but Tassie has its own little unique way. There is a smaller fanbase and smaller community behind us … I think the connection with our fans has grown heaps over the years. It’s good to be home, around your family, and play for the region you grew up in.”