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HYLAND KEEPS ON TACKLING
By Wayne Cousins
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Every successful team needs a work horse, the player who goes about his business with little fuss. For the Wests Tigers U20s team, Matt Hyland is that man.
Hyland is the team’s backbone. The blonde hair lock and prop Andrew Fifita are the only men to play all 27 games heading into Sunday’s Toyota Cup Grand Final against Melbourne Storm.
This year, Hyland has spent 2160 minutes on the field. He has made an incredible 967 tackles to be the competition’s leading tackler, averaging 35.8 a game. Going on those figures, he will surpass the 1000 mark.
His nearest team-mate in the tackling ranks is half-back Darren Nicholls (603) ahead of Andrew Fifita (503) and second-rowers Jason Schirnack (480) and Simon Dwyer (479).
“When you are on for the full 80 minutes, you have to do a few tackles,’’ the laidback Hyland said.
“Right through my junior days, that was the one thing that was drummed into me - that you have got to be able to defend if you want to go further.”
Nicholls has nothing but praise for Hyland who has made the lock position his own.
“I suppose we have sort of come to expect his high work rate in defence because we always know he is going to be there and make over 40 tackles a game,’’ Nicholls said.
“It is a good feeling to know that as captain, when some of the boys are struggling, Matty just keeps going.”
Wests Tigers Recruitment Manager Warren McDonnell said Hyland was “Chris Heighington all over”.
“Just in terms of his attitude, his professionalism, the way he prepares for a game,’’ McDonnell said.
“Matt is a very good kid. He will be apart of the full-time NRL squad over summer and the good thing is, he can still play Toyota Cup next year.’’
Hyland, the Wests Tigers Toyota Cup Rookie of the Year in 2008, said he had a good feeling earlier in the year that his team was something special.
“I knew from the pre-season trials that we were going to go pretty well,’’ Hyland said.
“I told our football manager Darren Mooney about it but everyone was treading carefully as they thought we had a good U20s team last year. Now we are in the Grand Final.’’
Whilst his defensive qualities have attracted praise, it is another part of his game that Hyland is pleased about.
“I have worked on my attack a bit more this year,’’ he said.
“Our coach Grant Jones wanted me to get a bit of a pass into my game. I put a fair bit of work into it.
As he prepares for the Grand Final, Hyland said the side’s heavy loss to the Brisbane Broncos in week one of the finals may have been a blessing.
“The loss woke a lot of the boys up. It was an awful feeling after the game to realise that one more loss and we could have been out,’’ he recalled.
“We have turned it around in the last two weeks (against Canberra and the Dragons) and we have been playing some good footy.
“There is plenty of excitement within the team and everyone is ready for Melbourne. There is a slight confidence there because we have already beaten them once.”