Matavesi loving life as a Falcon
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Josh Matavesi believes he has found the perfect home at Newcastle Falcons, with the former Osprey tailor-made for the ambitious playing style of the Premiership club.
Now 26 and with 17 Fijian caps to his name, the Cornish midfield man is full of enthusiasm for the new campaign as the Falcons look to build on a highest league finish in 11 years.
Famed for his creativity and handling, Matavesi said: "One of the big things that pulled me to this club was the style of play, the attacking philosophy and the things that people like Dave Walder are bringing to the coaching.
"There is a real attacking mind-set here, people want to play with ambition and I wanted to be at a club which shares those sorts of beliefs. It suits me down to the ground, and as I become more familiar with the players around me it will become a lot easier to fit into the system."
Currently a month into pre-season training, the hard-hitting back is acclimatising well to life on Tyneside, saying: "It has been an easy transition. Rugby is a small world and I know quite a few of the boys already from having played with or against them.
"Newcastle as a city has been really good. I didn't really know what to expect other than watching a couple of episodes of Geordie Shore, but all joking aside myself and my family are loving it here. My wife and kids have settled well, the boys from the club are incredibly friendly and everyone we've met in the region has been exactly the same towards us."
Having helped Ospreys to last season's Pro12 semifinals Matavesi knows his three seasons in Wales have brought with them an additional level of expectation and experience as he settles into his new surroundings.
"For probably the first time in my life I feel like I've been brought in to be one of the senior players," said the former Exeter, Racing Metro and Worcester man.
"I absolutely loved it down at Ospreys, playing for such a prestige team. Being with guys like Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb, Alun Wyn Jones and those sorts of people, they're just back from a Lions tour and it gave me a real insight into what you need to do to make it to the top. You definitely pick up good habits from those guys, and to be in an environment where such high standards are expected of you has definitely been beneficial.
"I've grown as a player during that time, both in a rugby sense and also in how I deal with that expectation. I've been around for a little while now and hopefully I can offer some little insights to the younger players, or tricks of the trade, but there's huge competition within the squad and I'm under no illusions about being an automatic selection.
"When you look at guys like Juan Pablo Socino, Maxime Mermoz, Chris Harris, Dom Waldouck and a load of others, we're certainly not short on quality or experience in the centres. I'’s a busy position and it's all about partnerships, but we're all here to win and to learn. I can definitely learn from all of those guys, and with our flyhalf options this season it will be great to also feed off the guys we have at 10."
With Newcastle's back-ine power also including the likes of Vereniki Goneva, Toby Flood, Sinoti Sinoti, DTH van der Merwe, Sonatane Takulua, Joel Hodgson and Simon Hammersley, to name just a few, Matavesi said: "Last year the Falcons were probably regarded by some people as a bit of a surprise package, but that's not the case now.
"With the signings we've made and what the guys here showed last season, we know there's a bounty on our head now. Expectations have been lifted, we're not being talked about as being in that relegation fight and our sights have to be on that top six. As a playing group that's what we’re aiming for, because we want to do more than just survive. We want to crack on and really achieve something.
"Pre-season has been tough but that's the same at any club, and it's about laying the foundations for the start of the season. It has been a bit of both in terms of getting beasted but also getting a rugby ball in our hands. The lungs have been working overtime but we've also been developing our game plan, and it's all about making sure we’re ready for when the Premiership starts.
"There will be a lot more rugby in this second block of pre-season which we are now entering, and the core group of players are all here apart from a couple of boys coming back from internationals. We are getting down to the game plan, finalising what we’re going to do and that’s the side of the game that I enjoy."