12 Sep 2015

Blues poach Melbourne Storm star

1:54 pm on 12 September 2015

The Blues have gone to the National Rugby League to replace the departing All Black Charles Piutau, signing Matt Duffie from the Melbourne Storm.

A former Auckland schools rugby star, Duffie's been with the Storm for seven years before deciding to return to the 15-man code, signing with the Blues for two years.

Matt Duffie in action against the Warriors in 2011

Matt Duffie in action against the Warriors in 2011 Photo: Photosport

Auckland-born Duffie, who played college rugby at St Kentigern College and Auckland Schools, was picked up by Melbourne as an 18-year-old and played a lead role in their NRL playoff win over minor Premiers the Sydney Roosters on Friday night.

The 25-year-old wing-fullback has scored 37 tries in 60 games, and is noted for his aerial skills.

Duffie has won a championship title with the Storm in 2011, and played one international for the New Zealand national side, the Kiwis, in 2011.

Matt Duffie's well known for his aerial ability

Matt Duffie's well known for his aerial ability Photo: Photosport

Duffie said the time was right to return to rugby after the World Cup and to his home in Auckland as well as to play for the Blues under head coach Tana Umaga.

"I was looking for a new challenge and it is the right timing to come back to rugby. The chance to return home to Auckland and to play for the Blues under Tana Umaga is very exciting," Duffie said.

"At the same time I am indebted to the Storm organisation which has been brilliant in every respect, and helped develop me to the player I am today.

"I have a rugby background but more importantly I think that the skill set to play at wing or fullback in rugby league is very similar to rugby."

Umaga said Duffie was an excellent signing to step into the shoes of Piutau.

Blues coach Tana Umaga

Blues coach Tana Umaga Photo: Photosport

"Matt is a fantastic athlete, and was a highly promising young rugby player," said Umaga. "He has developed into an excellent professional rugby league player at fullback and wing and that experience in those positions fits ideally to the role of an outside back in rugby.

"We are very excited to have him join the Blues, not just for his playing ability but as someone who has played top level professional sport for a highly successful organisation. He is also a leader who will add real direction to our young backs."

Duffie will play his ITM Cup rugby for North Harbour where he will re-link with Matt McGahan, who also played for the Storm, and good friend Bryn Hall, the Harbour captain.

"He is a marquee signing for the Blues and for Harbour," said North Harbour coach Steve Jackson. "We are excited to have him join us as a player and as a leader.

"If we can get everyone on the field at once, then a backline in 2016 with the likes of Ahki, Ranger, Duffie, McGahan, Li and Tuitavake is very exciting."

Duffie has had his share of injuries with the Storm including a shoulder reconstruction and two ACL operations but Umaga said he had passed the stringent medical examinations.

The Blues' 2016 roster is now almost complete and will be announced at the end of October.

Piutau's leaving New Zealand after the ITM Cup, signing a deal to play with English Premiership side Wasps later this year after initially agreeing a two-year contract with Ulster.

However the Irish side were not in a position to include him on their roster for this season as their foreign allocation was full, so Piutau, who missed out on the All Blacks squad for the World Cup, will instead move to London with Wasps.

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