Matt Joy: "It is at the end of the games where we lose
concentration because we don't have anyone there to keep us
focused." Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Otago United defender Matt Joy has had a sterling debut
season but was nearly lost to the sport five years ago.
The 21-year-old has been a standout performer for Otago with
his physical defence and ability to read the play. The 1.88m
centre back has helped carried a young team that started well
but has drifted off the pace in the past month after the
departure of three key players.
Like a lot of young lads, Joy flirted with the idea of
playing rugby when he was "15 or 16" and seriously considered
"I was tossing up whether I wanted to continue and was
actually considering rugby.
"I had had enough of football and wanted to try something
different. I was keen on basketball and volleyball as well."
But Joy stuck with football, mainly because he had played for
so long and could not quite make the move away.
He grew up in Christchurch and got his start as a
10-year-old. He moved to Dunedin when he was 13. His father,
Aaron Joy, got a job managing the Masters Games.
It was not until Joy reached the senior ranks that he started
taking the game more seriously.
"Once I started playing senior football I started enjoying it
more, and in the last two or three years, I've really loved
Joy plays his club football for Dunedin Technical and said
the step up had been big but he felt he had managed the
Centre back is the heart of the defence and it is a tough
position. Effective communication and some leadership is
required. It is a big ask of someone in their first season at
that level, but Joy has coped extremely well with the
"I do enjoy it and I really like the challenge. You have to
win your headers, win your battles and clear the line. Just
Otago United started strongly and defied some of the critics,
who questioned whether a team comprising mostly local talent
could be competitive. Until recently, the team was still in
the hunt for a place in the playoffs but the squad has been
decimated with the departures of Michael Cunningham, Tom
Connor and Darren Overton.
"Those three players had a massive role in our team. They
were the experienced guys. It was a huge loss and we are just
trying to rebuild at the moment and it has been tough.
"Without their experience, everyone has to step up. It did
make room for players but you can't replace players like
that. And since then we've had a draw and narrow losses.
"It is at the end of the games where we lose concentration
because we don't have anyone there to keep us focused."
Otago United plays Canterbury United, a team it surprised
with a 1-0 win in round five, in Christchurch on Sunday.
Canterbury is in second place in the competition and will
start as heavy favourite.
Joy described the 1-0 win against Canterbury as his best
performance in the blue and gold jersey and hopes his side
can upstage its neighbour again.
As Otago has fallen away, the team has had to change its
"Our main goal at the start was to get in the top four but
we've slipped. We were there for so long and so close but now
we can't really do that now. Our main focus is on the White
Ribbon Cup. The goal we got [in the 2-1 defeat to Canterbury
on Sunday] has given us a chance."
If Otago beats Wellington by two goals or more, it will
qualify for the White Ribbon final.