At the tail-end of a busy first week of the pre-season, Matt Ikuvalu popped in to the Roosters office to hang out and have a lengthy chat about a number of topics.
He touched on how the pre-season has treated him so far, reflected on a successful season for him in 2018, his debut, first NRL try and his hunger for improvement with a new season on the horizon.
Enjoy the full chat below!
First week back for the pre-season, how are you feeling?
I'm feeling good, the body is holding up alright.
The first day back I was fighting some demons (laughs), but it's been good. We've wrapped up the first official week now.
You came in for a couple of days last week for some testing which also involved the Yo-Yo test. Was that pretty intense?
It was, especially when you have to do it twice, that's not the best.
You give it your all in the first one, then it's like, "Alright, we're doing that again."
Did you find yourself improving for the second run?
Not so much.
I really pushed to make it as close as I could, but it's more of a mental test than a physical one.
You did a full pre-season last year for the first time, but you were officially a member of the Wyong Roos.
This year you're a member of the Sydney Roosters, is there a big difference?
This year there's a new crop of younger boys, so I've taken on that role of showing those guys how to get through the training.
Not so much in a leadership role, but more showing them the Roosters way which I learnt last year because I had a great group of guys showing me the way.
There's a couple of new faces in the squad.
Good to have a backline veteran guy like Brett Morris around for you personally?
It's great for me because he's played a lot of wing and some fullback as well.
Having a veteran guy like that around to show me the way is awesome.
Last year we had guys like Toops and Fergo showing the way, so a guy like Brett who's been around for a while really makes a difference.
You were in the Wyong Roos at the start of last year then got a call up early in the year and became an official member of the Sydney Roosters squad.
Tell us a bit about that journey.
I did a full pre-season with the Roosters up until Christmas, then after Christmas I went back to Wyong.
Bernard Lewis unfortunately had an ACL injury just after Christmas and not long after Toops hurt his shoulder, so they were down a couple of outside backs.
I played three games in Wyong before I got a call from Harty (Adam Hartigan, Recruitment Manager) saying that they needed me for around eight weeks or so to come and train to help out with the outside backs.
That eight weeks turned into ten weeks, that turned into twelve weeks and before I knew it I was making my NRL debut.
THAT was crazy.
Everyone knows that the first grade debut is a big thing, was it any different for you?
More than anything, there was a sense of relief.
I had come to terms with the fact that I may never play first grade.
I went back to Wyong to enjoy my footy, to be happy with whatever grade they wanted me in and to keep at it with my uni work.
When I got the Roosters call up the dream started to come back a little bit.
When I got that call, there was a weight lifted off my shoulders, I was finally going to make my debut.
It was big for my parents too, they've always come to my games and taken me to all my games when I was younger.
I didn't even get to see my Dad on my debut cause he was crying up the back and too shy to come down and see me after the game.
It ended up being one of the craziest games of the year as well (Round 13 v Wests Tigers).
It was crazy.
I ended up hurting my ankle too, which was the only bad thing about it.
You ended up coming back though and played a few more games at the top grade.
You scored your first try against the Melbourne Storm at Adelaide Oval.
That must have been unbelievable.
That was insane.
I was too scared to celebrate too hard in case my foot went into touch or something.
I backed myself, I knew I put it down right but then started thinking "Billy Slater's come for me here."
He's a great fullback, so I wasn't sure if he'd knocked me into touch or something.
I just remember Teddy jumped on me, then Cooper came up to me after I'd scored and said, "Did you get it down? Did you score it?"
I just looked straight at him and went, "Yep, I scored it."
Fast forward to pre-season in 2019.
It was a big Premiership year that ended in lots of celebration.
How do you find your mindset coming into a new year on the back of that?
The celebrations are behind us now.
We can all be happy with what happened last year in 2018, but looking forward I want to build on myself, keep my head down and work hard.
I know there's spots available this year and I want to push to show the training staff that I'm ready to play first grade.
Is that the plan?
To show that you're hear to play?
I want to show that I'm ready to play, I want the coaches to know that I'm ready to play.
There's veterans and big dogs that are in this squad, so I've got to show them as well that I'm ready to play and be a serious part of this team.