The Big Interview: Matt To’omua on Murphy, MBAs and the Post Office
As Leicester Tigers prepare to host Gloucester Rugby on Saturday they do so as a side who look to be moving in the right direction.
After acting as interim head coach for three months Geordan Murphy was appointed to the role on a permanent basis last month and spoke of his intentions to turn ‘a battleship’ around.
Since then the course was re-set with a dominant 35-24 victory over Harlequins and a battling bonus-point defeat at Bath Rugby on Sunday.
The Tigers are looking increasingly settled and star playmaker Matt To’omua is in no doubt that the firmer footing is the right direction for the club.
“That’s the word, stability,” To’omua said of Murphy’s appointment. “We haven’t had that probably since I’ve been here to be honest – I’ve played for quite a few coaches in my time here!
“I think it’s only fair to Geordy too, he’s obviously picked up in a tough spot initially. It’s good for the club, it’s good for the players and the fans as well.
Matt Toomua speaks about last Sunday's loss to Bath and his belief that the group is showing signs of improvement each week, as well as the strong support from travelling fans at The Rec last weekend.https://t.co/KqLukMoh3W
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) January 1, 2019
“We can all get behind a guy with a vision and start investing into that now – it’s a really good thing.”
To’omua, who will join Melbourne Rebels at the end of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby season, was signed by Richard Cockerill in the summer of 2016 and played under Aaron Mauger and Matt O’Connor before Murphy took over.
The Australian international has been a key cog in the Tigers machine in his three seasons, whether at fly-half or centre, and has seen the club’s style evolve in his time.
As a player, Murphy combined inspirational attacking creativity in a team famous for its forward power and relentless bloody-mindedness, so, how does he want his team to play?
“He wants us to be tough up front but with the backline we’ve got it would be silly not to pull the trigger and move the ball around a little bit as well,” To’omua added. “It’s just timing and knowing when to do that.
“He’s quite progressive in the way he thinks about the game and he enjoys the expansive style.
“He’s not a yell’er or a screamer, he loves a few little trick plays and likes to try things, particularly off set-piece.
“We’re trying to form our identity at the moment, I wouldn’t say we’ve got it down just yet but we’ll keep at it and hopefully get it in time.”
📸 Training days pic.twitter.com/4QpWaZf3hC
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) January 2, 2019
To’omua, who shot to fame as a fly-half for the Brumbies in Australia, would seem like an ideal candidate to move into coaching himself having developed his experience in both hemispheres as well as in 42 Tests for the Wallabies.
The 29-year-old clearly has plenty of playing years left but has given his future thought, having already completed an MBA and moved on to a masters in sports directorship at the University of Salford.
“I want to stay in sport,” he added. “I tried looking at other things but I want to stay in sport – it’s just too much fun!
“Obviously rugby would be the natural fit but I don’t think coaching’s my thing, I think it’s more sports management.
“My MBA was in supply chain and logistics management, I finished that and have started the masters now and have really enjoyed it.
“Mat Tait put me on to it, we get to meet people from all different sports which is quite cool.
“I missed a session with Pep Guardiola a few weeks ago, I saw it on social media and was gutted I missed it because I could’ve faked an injury for that!”
Moving to the other side of the world can be tricky in any profession but To’omua has made a success of his move to Leicester thus far and is now concentrated on a push for the top four.
As well as focusing on his education in his spare time the Wallaby believes he’s learnt a few things on the pitch too, as well as enjoying some of the pleasures of Leicestershire life.
“I’ve played a lot more 12 here than I did at home, I played a lot more at fly-half in Australia so I’ve learnt a bit and I’ve really enjoyed the problem-solving factor over here.
“You’ve got to battle things like the weather conditions throughout the season, battle Test players leaving and there’s a bit more going on here – you’ve got to find different ways of playing and to win a game.
“I’ve learnt a lot about the game of rugby and I’ve really enjoyed that. Off the pitch, if I was a bit younger I might’ve enjoyed the city lights a little bit more but I’ve really enjoyed village life.
“English countryside, local pub – you go to the post office and you know people’s names there which I find quite funny, I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far.”