Born: 20 July, 1977 – Auckland
Test record: 11 Tests (1999-2001) – 2 tries (8 points)
Tours: 1999 Tri Nations, 2000 World Cup
Bone-crunching back-rower Matt Rua rose from obscurity to win an NRL premiership with Melbourne and become a Kiwis regular, playing 11 Tests from 1999-2001.
The Auckland product spent time at Manly and represented Junior Kiwis in 1996. Snapped up by the fledgling Storm, Rua made six first-grade appearances in 1998 and featured in feeder club Norths Devils’ Queensland Cup grand final win.
Rua became a permanent member of the Storm’s line-up in 1999, largely coming off the bench behind fellow Kiwi back-rowers Stephen Kearney and Tawera Nikau, and celebrating in the club’s extraordinary grand final triumph in just its second season.
With just 11 NRL games under his belt, the 21-year-old made his Kiwis debut as an interchange in the 1999 Anzac Test and was a second-row starter in all three matches of their thrilling Tri Nations campaign. He scored a try in the 26-4 win over Great Britain in Auckland.
Rua snared a run-on role with the Storm in 2000 following Nikau’s departure and played in the Anzac Test and five of New Zealand’s World Cup matches. He dotted down in the quarter-final demolition of France and turned out in the subsequent semi win over England and the final loss to Australia.
Recognised as one of the game’s most hurtful defenders, Rua was a mainstay for the ailing Storm in 2001 and made his final Test appearance mid-season against France. But he was predominantly used an interchange in 2002 and signed with Canberra, before walking out on his contract prior to the 2003 season.
Rua slipped back to the relative anonymity of playing in the Bartercard Cup for Waitakere Rangers and the Queensland Cup for Central Comets, piquing the interest again of Melbourne, who brought him back on-board for 2007. He only played one further NRL game, though – at centre in an Origin-depleted Storm side against the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium.