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Welcome, Matt . . . North Otago winger Matt Vocea scores a try in the Heartland Championship game against East Coast at Whitestone Contracting Stadium on October 7. PHOTO: PHIL JANSSEN

Matt Vocea has had a quietly excellent season for Valley, which reached the Citizens Shield final, and North Otago, which heads to Greymouth this weekend to play West Coast in a Lochore Cup semifinal. Hayden Meiklemeets the 22-year-old winger.

Q: Where are you from, Matt? Where is home?
I’m from Fiji. We live in the city because of studies and work and that. So mainly from the capital, Suva.

Q: When did you come to Oamaru?
I came to St Kevin’s in 2013 through a rugby scholarship. I did two years there at school. I really loved it. Way better than school rugby back home. Me and Siua [Ngalo] and Filipo [Veamatahau] came out the same year.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced coming from Fiji to a town like Oamaru?
Oh, mostly the weather. And the food, ha ha. It was way too cold for me when I arrived. It was nearly winter. Really cold for me.

Q: What’s kept you here? Why have you stayed on?
It’s just the people. They’ve looked after me and sorted out my visa and things. I’m happy to stick around. This is a good place to be.

Q: What do you do for a job?
I’m doing some work for North Otago rugby. Just going around schools and doing some coaching and stuff. I enjoy it.

Q: How did you enjoy the club season, getting all the way to the final with Valley?
At the start, I had some doubts in my mind whether to go to Valley. When I was still at St Kevin’s, I played a pre-season game for Blues. And Old Boys have been the winning team for a long time, and everyone wants to win. I went back home in 2015 because of injuries and my visa. When I came back last year, we had a pretty good team at Valley. And this year was really good. I enjoyed playing with the Valley boys. And the coaches have been really good. They’ve helped me a lot, especially Mike Mavor with back skills.

Q: What was your injury?
My knee. I had a big cartilage problem and some surgery. When it happened in 2015, I thought it was the end of my career. But I just kept hoping. I’m feeling quite good now. Just gaining my confidence back has been a big thing.

Q: Has it been good to get a regular run with North Otago this year?
Yeah, the year has been not too bad. I just think we’ve had a bit of bad luck with some games. Last weekend’s game was a bit of a disappointing finish. But I’m enjoying it so far. And hopefully we can win the Lochore Cup from here. I’m confident we can do it.

Q: What does the future hold?
I’ll just see what happens. If there’s an opportunity in rugby or a job, I will look at it. But at the moment I am loving Oamaru. And it’s nearly summer. It will pretty much be like Fiji, ha ha.