'He stole about three or four of our balls': Blues excited about Anton Segner
Segner was named in the Blues squad for Super Rugby Pacific 2022 after signing a three-year deal with the Auckland franchise, who lured him from the clutches of the Crusaders where he was involved with their academy.
Blues forwards coach Tom Coventry explained that Segner has been a “sponge” for information with a big desire to reach the next level.
He said the Blues see the loose forward as cover for all three positions in the back row, adding strength to a unit that already includes All Blacks stars Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii and Hoskins Sotutu.
“We’re really happy with Anton,” Coventry told media on Monday.
“He’s been under Leon’s [MacDonald, Blues head coach] guide down in Tasman, seen him come through schooling.
“Really conscientiousness young boy, got a great skillset, really resilient. We saw him play through a shoulder injury in the final against Waikato last week.
“He emulates what we are about, working hard, growing his game since he’s come to New Zealand. He’s been a sponge for picking up knowledge, he’s been able to transfer that into his game.
“He’s good over the ball and he’s got the ability to play in more than one position. We are looking at him being able to fill in at No. 8 occasionally as well.”
MacDonald recalled a story about when he first came across Segner while he was a student at Nelson College and was invited to train with the Tasman NPC squad.
“He made an instant impression. I heard a lot about him, more around his leadership and his drive. When I was coaching Tasman, we would get some schoolboys to come down and do a work experience sort of thing,” MacDonald said.
“Somehow he managed to come down and train with us a couple of times. He stole about three or four of our balls at our training run as a schoolboy. The older boys, the Shane Christie’s, were getting a bit frustrated with him.
“I was tempted to take him out, but it just showed at a young age he was a determined, tough fighter.
“He loved the physicality, to his detriment. He’s had a few setbacks with injuries as a young 7, because of his diligence he’s built his frame up now.
“He’s an impressive 106-107 kgs. He’s just got everything that we are looking for in terms of the types of players that we want, aspirational-wise, that want to be All Black because that means they are willing to do a little bit extra than the normal person.
“His leadership qualities we’ve talked a lot about, and that’s not necessarily being the captain, it’s being able to lead yourself.
“Turning up on time, making sure you are doing the necessary homework preparation, you’re learning all your lineout moves, all those things that are really important, and he has that in spades.
“You can rely on players like that to deliver.”
MacDonald highlighted the selection of Funaki as an example of the New Zealand’s development system working after incumbent halfback Jonathan Ruru left the Blues to take up an opportunity in France.
“It was a three-year offer in France for Jono [Ruru]. He’s been fantastic for us and we supported him in that shift. He made it pretty clear to us that at some point overseas is where he wants to go, and this was a really great opportunity for him,” he said.
“We feel we are in a good space [at halfback]. We are really happy with Finlay [Christie]. He’s taking his game to that All Black level, and Sam Nock, he’s been around with us for a long time and it’s really for those two to grab it.
“But, also, it allows us to start bringing through some of our youth. Taufa Funaki has come through New Zealand Schools, New Zealand U20, he’s been part of the Blues U20 team, he’s in the Auckland NPC team.
“He’s been training on the fringes with us. He’s shown us over the last three years, as we’ve brought him through, that he’s got the right mindset. He’s a hard worker, he’s hungry and he loves the Blues.
“It’s the perfect scenario for us to start bringing the young guys, the future, through underneath experienced players. This is what the system should look like and it is a good example of it working really well.
“He’s going full-noise with his training and showing it is a good decision by us.”
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