Matt Tink returned home to, as he puts it, rekindle his love for rugby union.
A year into his tenure as the boss of rugby in the Central West and his enthusiasm for country rugby has returned, and it’s become so infectious you get the feeling when the former Dubbo Roos mastermind gets talking he’s on the brink of declaring the Blue Bulls are on the path to world domination.
He stops short, though, naturally. Tink is a realist.
He’ll settle for the following: A healthy colts competition, the return of third grade, continued growth for the women’s game, the highest level of participation in country rugby and country championship glory, in all age groups ... year after year after year.
It’s not too much to ask, is it?
“Let’s just rip in and have a crack, see what happens,” Tink laughs.
“Let’s get as big as we can. Rugby, especially in the bush, is a great product. I want to grow the game as much as I can.”
It’s been 12 months since Tink was unveiled as the new boss of rugby in the region, taking over from long-term chief executive officer Peter Veenstra.
Making the move back home to the Central West after a stint coaching in Japan, Tink was appointed in November and arrived in the region in February, inheriting the three tier senior men’s structure.
It’s been a challenge, he admits as much.
But the future is a bright one – Tink will assure of that.
“Our zone is huge but it’s a great zone. There’s so much stuff to do and I want to showcase all the towns,” he said.
I want participation up. I want us winning country championships, I want the colts healthy, I want us profitable, and I want us running events.Matt Tink.
“The key is getting more people playing. I want to get a healthy colts competition flowing from 17s through to 19s and I want to try and get third grade back.
“We want to be winning country championships from under 12s through to Caldwell Cup, I want Central West to have a mortgage on the Caldwell Cup.
“Participation wise, we’re the second biggest zone behind Newcastle, I want us to be the biggest by a long way. More people, more experiences for rugby.”
The reformed women’s competition, the Ferguson Cup, was undoubtedly the highlight of season 2018 – that success, Tink says, has been “completely driven by the girls” – while an Emus and Bulldogs colts clash under lights and a Graincorp Cup clash between Grenfell and Temora stand-out to Tink.
It’s easy to look back with a smile.
Tink admits he’s a big fan of nostalgia.
But the nature of the beast in the bush means, even though it’s November and a competitive ball won’t be kicked until the first week of April, the chief’s job is never over.
The colts, women’s and third tier competitions are constant works in progress for the game.
Tink says the Ferguson Cup will continue to grow in 2019, while the third tier has enjoyed its own growth, with an influx of southern sides adding to the mix next season.
Young and Boorowa have joined the CWRU third tier and given the huge southern influence in that tier heading into next winter, the competition will be called the Oilsplus South West competition.
Canowindra has moved into the northern premiership race.
But the big one is colts.
The CWRU will move the age for its colts competition back to under 19s in 2019, while it’s expected up to seven sides will contest what will be a stand-alone title race similar to the Ferguson Cup.
“I’ve been lucky in that regard to have the support of the clubs with a number of things this year, and they’re giving me another go with this one,” he said.
“Hopefully I don’t let the down.”
Aligning draws with some clubs spread across three different competitions will be tough.
“It’s too easy to say it’s too hard,” he fired.
“We’ll look at it and a club playing at home will have their colts side there as well with them. We won’t get a situation where clubs are split on home games. I won’t allow that to happen.”
He said it’s all about rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck into the job.
“When I was at the country meeting someone asked how we did the Classic Wallabies, and I just with effort,” Tink said.
“I want participation up. I want us winning country championships, I want the colts healthy, I want us profitable, and I want us running events.
“You’ve just got to try.”
No doubt he’ll be doing just that in 2019 as the game continues to evolve throughout the Central West.