Football Club’s Nathan de Thierry plays with the heart of Chief Damian McKenzie
The 22-year-old fly half is a standout as his side brings Kowloon’s four-match winning streak to an end in the Hong Kong Premiership
If Football Club’s Nathan de Thierry can play with half the heart of recent All Blacks debutant Damian McKenzie each time he steps out, he’s pretty happy.
One of five Chiefs players in Hong Kong as part of a deal between the HKRU and the Super Rugby club, De Thierry is plotting his path towards his dream of wearing the vaunted black jersey.
He was one of HKFC’s best in their 17-11 win over Kowloon on Thursday night, slotting four penalties, and he has seen first-hand McKenzie’s work at the Chiefs.
“He’s a small bloke but he’s got a big heart,” De Thierry said.
“Just his agility and speed. You see a small guy out there just taking the field by storm, so it doesn’t matter about your size, just how big your heart is.”
Having grown up south of Auckland in Pukekohe, it was while playing club rugby that De Thierry was inspired to aim for greater things by All Blacks legend Tana Umaga.
“I heard Tana Umaga was coaching Counties Manakau and a few of the older lads were heading overseas so they needed a young fella to step up into the pivot position,” he said.
“I had my eyes on that and I had a few chats with Tana, he gave me a few pointers to go away and work on. Obviously he liked it and he offered me a two-year contract.”
Learning of the contract was one of the highlights of the 22-year-old’s developing career.
“It was out the gate,” De Thierry said.
“As soon as he offered me that contract I didn’t want to jump up and down until I had left him, but as soon as I walked into the changing rooms I was screaming, I let it all out.”
Good form under Umaga brought De Thierry to the attention of the Chiefs and he is hoping that his stint in Hong Kong will play a part in propelling him toward his ultimate goal.
“My goal is to wear that black jersey,” De Thierry said.
“It’s always been a dream of mine since I was a little kid, it’s everyone’s dream back at home.”
Despite feeling a little homesick in Hong Kong – something he is hoping a week at home during the Christmas break will ease – De Thierry has made an instant impact since arriving at HKFC last month.
“He brings a lot of game management, you can see that he has got a cool, calm head,” HKFC coach Phil Bailey said.
“He was trying to win the game for us there [against Kowloon] as well, which is great from your playmakers. You can’t button him up because that is the player he is and they will come off nine times out of 10.”
It was an impressive showing from HKFC against a Kowloon side who came into the clash on the back of four straight victories.
The win gives Bailey’s side some momentum heading into the last five minor-round games after the break.
“It was a tough win and we did it way harder than we needed to,” Bailey said.
“But it was good, the boys ground it out, we’re not very good front runners, we know that. It is like the tighter the game gets the more we get into the action and the boys proved that tonight.”
Elsewhere, the Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers broke through for their first win since early October with a 30-21 triumph over an injury-hit Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC.
Societe Generale Valley tightened their grip on top spot with a 25-6 win over Bloomberg HK Scottish.