All Blacks and Blues half-back Finlay Christie knows an opportunity when he sees it and takes advantage of his return to his home region to play DHL Super Rugby Pacific in Auckland.
A combination of improved playing time, a more successful Blues side and exposure to Test rugby with the All Blacks saw the Scottish-born Christie perform at around his peak , week after week.
Christie’s return in 2020, he played his age group rugby for Manukau Counties and attended St Kentigern’s College, after five or six years in various teams helped his career. Being closer to family and friends and knowing his surroundings helped him settle in with the Blues, and he enjoyed his time with the team.
“It’s been a good few years so far,” he said.
Having been part of the structures for the Chiefs (nine games in 2017) and the Hurricanes (14 in 2018-19), the chance to play more often for the Blues was a factor in his decision to return, and it paid off.
The type of rugby the Blues have played under coach Leon MacDonald requires a fast ball, and that fast ball requires a fast half-back, which suits Christie’s style.
“It’s been a huge job for me, and I guess one of my strengths as well to try to get that ball up fast and to be quick to the breakdown. It’s continuous work and an important part of every game.”
Christie thrives on being part of the pulse of the team, a player whose speed can give the team a burst of positivity when extra effort is needed.
“As a half-back and front five, it’s always nice to have the ball with the front foot. It gives you more time on the ball, more space for your attackers and it’s better for your team. It increases your energy when your big boys roll up their sleeves and give you a fastball,” he said.
“I guess the way to pay back for that is to try and get the ball going fast and keep it going. When we get a fast ball we look really good, so that’s a huge part of our game,” did he declare.
Christie said with the Chiefs on Saturday and the Crusaders a week later, the Blues felt the next two weeks could be pivotal for the season.
“We feel like we’re building well. We had a tough start to the season with a loss to the Hurricanes [32-33]. But, we feel that we have recovered well, and we are trying to keep that.
“The Chiefs are in great shape right now, and we like to test ourselves against the best, and we have to beat teams like that if we’re going to win a championship.
“It’s always exciting to play against the best teams and you have to bring your best game for the boys to look forward to,” he said.
Three games in eight days last week were tough, especially for players coming out of Covid, he said.
“The coaches ran the team well which was great to see and a lot of young players got opportunities because of that and that can only be good for the team. But it’s good to have that stormy week behind us now and we can get back to some normality.”
Being part of the All Blacks on their international program last year was a valuable experience.
Being in an environment with professionals who knew their game and who were top athletes who knew what they had to do to perform at that level was an experience. So was being around players like Aaron Smith and others, who had been on the team for a long time and had so much experience to pass on.
“I learned a lot about my game and got a lot of feedback that pointed me in the right direction on what I needed to do in my game,” he said.
Having the chance to watch French half-back Antoine Dupont in the loss to France in Paris was also special.
“He’s a triple threat, he can do anything right now. He’s among the best players in the world and was good to watch,” he said.
Christie was aware of what German-born free forward Anton Segner would bring to the Blues by joining his Tasmanian team-mate in the squad this year.
“Seeing him named to the Blues, I was excited for him. I knew what he could bring to the environment, and I knew he would thrive here. Talking to him, he loves it, and all the boys here love having it here.
“He’s had a few opportunities now, and he’s taken them. He’s still young and has a lot to prove in the future,” he said.
The Blues take on the Chiefs at FMG Stadium Waikato at 7.05pm on Saturday April 9.