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“It Is Tough On My Family” – Alby Mathewson On The Stark Reality Of Pro Rugby

Alby Mathewson Munster

Alby Mathewson has settled into life quickly with Munster since he made the move to Limerick at the beginning of the season. 

Due to the processing of his work permit, Mathewson’s debut didn’t come until the home clash with Ulster at the end of September and he admits he is enjoying the experience thus far.

“I have loved it so far. Obviously, I am here until March at the moment and when that time comes around we will see what happens,” Mathewson said.

Mathewson’s short-term contract was extended recently which will bring him up to the end of March after initially being brought in as cover for the injured Conor Murray.

Alby Mathewson Munster

Although the Ireland scrum half has returned to fitness, the former All Black is keen to stay.

“I would like to stay because I was here from the start of the season and once it gets to March there is only two months left. It is obviously not up to me, really, but just take it as it is at the moment, see what happens in the future.”

It comes as no surprise that the 33-year-old would like to further continue his career with Munster. Regardless of becoming a fan favourite due to his excellent performances, Mathewson is seeking certainty in a career which has seen him play for a wide range of clubs on short-term deals over the last few seasons.

Since 2017, Mathewson has played for Bristol, Toulon and now Munster – all on temporary contracts.

“I have had to do this the last three years. I went to Bristol after the (Western) Force on a short-term contract and had to go straight in, learn the plays and play, the same with Toulon.

Alby Mathewson Munster

“I went in part way through the season obviously, had to learn the plays within a week and then I played, obviously the language and that, but I put a big emphasis on my preparation and all the little things, so it is surprising (how quickly he settled in at Munster), but it is sort of not either if you know what I mean?”

Munster head coach Johann van Graan has often spoken about how impressed he is with Mathewson’s professionalism especially with regards to how much he takes care of his body which is all the more admirable when you consider the Hastings native often comes into new teams without a proper pre-season under his belt.

Of course, the human side of the situation often goes under the radar when it comes to professional sport and Mathewson’s current set of circumstances are far from ideal.

He has a wife and children who are currently back in Australia. Being on the other side of the world making a living for his young family is incredibly commendable but with Christmas approaching, he will have to spend a special time of year without those he cares for most – which makes his desire for a long-term contract at a club all that more understandable.

Alby Mathewson Munster

“Yes, for me, long-term would be ideal. It has been tough the last two years for me. I have lived in five countries the last two years, just as I said, picking up contracts here and there.

“I am looking for something long-term. It is tough on my family, my oldest son is eight, he has been to five different schools in the last two years and this is probably the toughest period, I have never been away from him for this long and obviously over Christmas it makes it even tougher, but I sort of said to him that it is not forever, just for myself and for them, long-term (contract) is the plan.”

Mathewson doesn’t rule out staying on at Munster, nor does van Graan, but of course, that decision is out of his and the southern province’s control – it will be up to the IRFU.

“It is tough with the rules here, or everywhere I guess, but whether it is here or somewhere else, long-term. Yes, 33, people might say it is old, but I look after myself and I know I can keep proving to myself and people that it doesn’t matter where I go, I can play and perform at a high level and I know I can do it for at least another couple of years, few years, whatever.

Alby Mathewson Munster

“I left New Zealand a fair few years ago. I played four years in Australia in Perth still playing Super Rugby but just now with the rules now even tighter on foreign players, it’s pretty difficult over here. But guys are still getting signed so nothing is impossible and I’m hoping I can just play well and a team will pick me up.”

The five-times capped All Black admits that it requires a special mindset to be in the position which he currently finds himself – not exactly wishing injury on a player but to be always mentally ready for an opportunity which could come knocking.

“I haven’t given up playing professionally because I know there are always injuries. It’s going to have to be a medical joker. It’s going to have to be Northern Hemisphere. I was lucky that this [Munster] came up pretty quickly.

“Obviously, the tough period is in between seasons when nobody is playing and nobody is training. Of course, you don’t wish injury on anyone but for the past two years, that’s what I’ve been having to rely on to get contracts. My mindset was to stay ready when a team calls and be ready to go.”

With Murray likely to have some time off over the festive period due to the IRFU’s player management programme kicking in, Mathewson will likely be called upon to help navigate Munster through the tricky festive period.

First up is Ulster away on Friday, the team he made his debut in red against just a few months ago and you can be sure Mathewson will be “ready to go” for that one.

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Author: Sean McMahon

Sean is Deputy Editor and head rugby writer. You can contact him by email or on Twitter