There was a time when Oregon club rugby didn’t take its sport very seriously. The team was more interested in socializing and having a good time than in training and improving. This lack of focus showed itself in games, with wins coming few and far between.
The efforts by guys like fifth year senior Anton Matschek is one of the main reasons the club is now successful.
Matschek lived in New Zealand until he was seven before moving to the United States. It was in New Zealand that he developed a passion for rugby watching the professionals play the game, a passion that stuck with him through high school.
Where Matschek planned to attend college was never in doubt – as he is a fourth-generation Duck – though the first to play rugby at the school.
“My dad, grandfather and great grandfather all went to Oregon,” Matschek said. “Definitely a long tradition of family going here.”
Watching Matschek play rugby is an impressive sight. He is in constant control, balancing his frenetic energy on the pitch with a strong intelligence for how the game is played. He is one of the toughest guys to suit up for the Ducks, battling through blood and bruises to stay out on the field and contribute to his team.
“He’s by far one of our best tacklers,” club president Connor Crossley said. “It’s not uncommon for him to break a game changing run.”
Matschek puts so much effort into rugby that he has to focus on making time for academics as well.
“I would love to be the Mariota and take yoga and golf,” Matschek said. “But I am here as a student first, that’s the reality – at least for my parents.”
Matschek will graduate this year with a double major in environmental geography and film studies.
Despite everything Matschek has done on the field for Oregon, his most impressive contributions have been away from the game. He has worked to create a new culture for this team. Matschek has brought discipline to practices, recruited athletes on campus to join the team and has worked to build a network of rugby Alumni to help support the club.
“He has built such a strong foundation that it makes it easy for future presidents like myself to continue to build the club up,” Crossley said. “He’s one of those guys that would lay down everything if he knew it would benefit the team.”
After everything that has happened for Matschek with this team, moving on at the end of this season will be difficult. He will be one of 13 graduating seniors, which means the Ducks will have to look to bring in as much new talent as possible to fill the void.
“It’s bittersweet, having to leave and pass the reigns off,” Matschek said. “Just hoping the guys that come after me will keep inspired to bring that intensity and fire to the game.”
Though he will no longer be a Duck, Matschek has no plans of giving up rugby anytime soon. His dream is to move back to New Zealand to play professionally with one of the Rugby Unions, a realistic goal according to his head coach.
“Anton can make it, I believe that he can,” coach Pate Tuisue said. “I have no doubt, but he has to believe and keep fighting for it.”
Of course he will also become one of the rugby Alumni he has worked so hard to bring together, continuing to support the Ducks as much as he can.
Follow Christopher Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur