In some great news for Tumut rugby, the next generation of players will be under the guidance of Bulls stalwart Matthew ‘Troff’ Hardwick, with the Adelong product taking the reigns of third grade in 2020.
Hardwick, who has been in the Bulls system for almost a quarter of a century, will hope to guide his players in the right direct, both on and off the field.
The veteran second rower has a colourful history representing the red and black, having won a first grade title, whilst playing with the some of the biggest names to come out of the Tumut club.
“I first came to the Bulls in 1996 after being asked by a group of mates that were fresh home from boarding school to play,” Hardwick said.
“As a 75kg outside back that had never played the game before, and only watched it played a couple of times, it was a huge learning curve.
“In 1998 I made the move into the forward pack in first grade, playing in the second row (not because of my weight gain but because I was tall and easy to lift up in a line out), at this time I was being mentored by a wild Kiwi second rower Campbell Taylor.”
Hardwick reminisced on Tumut’s Walsh and Blair Cup victory in the late 90s, which eventually led to a brief period away from the game.
“In 1998 we won the Walsh and Blair cup Against Ag College. It was a great year and l was lucky enough to be awarded the club’s most improved for the second time (the first came in 1996),” Hardwick said.
“The years following saw a large number of the clubs greatest players retiring. I played on for a number of years after that and had a few years off in the middle due to work and family commitments.”
Coaching came next for Hardwick, starting with the Bullants before finally sinking his teeth into senior coaching roles.
Troff explained that offering a pathway for juniors into senior rugby was a huge motivation to get involved with third grade side in the first place.
“I first started coaching (with the) Bullants then took over the third grade coaching role from Tim Owers,” Hardwick said.
“Mostly I wanted to provide a safe pathway for our juniors to enter into men’s rugby, as at the time, the boys I was coaching in under 15’s had no rugby to go on to.
“Hopefully I can keep doing that for third grade this year. Inspire some new blood to take on the game and some older blokes to keep enjoying their footy at a slightly slower pace and intensity.”
During his time with the Bulls, Hardwick has had some very memorable moments on and off the paddock.
“Some of the highlights of footy during my time with the Tumut Bulls are playing footy with my children and nephews, winning grand finals in first and second grade and being honoured with the Warwick Tout Award and also Life Membership,” Hardwick said.
Winning the Warwick Tout Award was especially important to Hardwick, as Tout was integral in getting Hardwick to play rugby in the first place.
Current Bulls president Jon Carmody highlighted the importance of Hardwick, not only third grade, but also to the club in general, suggesting that he had been a huge player in the club’s cultural shift in recent years.
“Troffy has been a massive part of the Bulls for 25 or more years. He has been a big part of shaping the culture of the club,” Carmody said.
“He always leads the way on and off the field with his pride, passion and love of the game.
“He’s the perfect person to lead thirds with his laid-back personality and passion for the club.”
Carmody did elaborate that the third grade coaching role was tougher than most people thought, but believes Hardwick would get the most out of the role.
“It’s a tougher role than people think because you never have same team, which can be tough, but Troffy has ways of showing people how to enjoy themselves and have a good time,” Carmody said.