The Tumut Blues will welcome Matthew Byatt to their playing ranks for the 2020 season after the workaholic front rower recently came to terms with the club.
The former Tumbarumba Green and Albury Thunder bookend has been one of the competition’s most consistent front rowers in recent years and will come in handy after the recent departures of Zac Masters and Ben Warner.
Byatt, who has spent time playing rugby league in England for the Shaw Cross Sharks and Underbank Rangers, was also a Group 9 Allstars representative in 2016.
The towering prop is certainly aware he has some big boots to fill but is backing his own ability and looking forward to the challenge of leading around the Blues pack.
“Zac (Masters) and Ben (Warner) are two top players and Zac even made team of the year,” he said.
“They are both quality players and they will be really hard to replace and hopefully I can keep up with their good work they were able to produce last season.”
It might surprise some to hear that Byatt’s move wasn’t necessarily motivated by the Blues success in 2019 but more to do with convenience.
“The travelling to Albury from Tumbarumba was the hardest part last year, so I wanted to find somewhere a little closer to home and when the Blues offered me an opportunity, it just made sense to make the move,” he said.
The former Green did admit having a strong connection to Tumbarumba would make things interesting upon his arrival in Tumut.
“It will be very different with a Tumbarumba born and bred player playing for Tumut; once upon a time they probably wouldn’t have let that happen,” he laughed.
“Still, I know a few of the players down there and with Jordy (Anderson) also coming from Tumbarumba, it should be pretty easy to fit in.”
Blues 2019 co-captain/coach Dean Bristow believes Byatt will be a strong addition to the Blues pack for next season.
“He will be a very handy acquisition, especially when you consider the departures we have had,” he said.
“It’s a very good start for us that’s for sure.”
Bristow highlighted just some of the qualities that the former Thunder front rower would bring to the Blues.
“He is very tough and has a big engine for a bigger bloke, while he also has a lot of experience in Group 9,” he said.
“Those qualities will fill a fair few voids after what we have lost in recent times.”
Only time will tell if the addition of Byatt will help make up for the loss of outgoing multiple premiership-winning forwards.