Fine career from inauspicious start

Elliot Dixon with halfback Aaron Smith at training earlier this week.  PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Elliot Dixon with halfback Aaron Smith at training earlier this week. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Elliot Dixon was a slow burner. Let's be honest here - after a couple of years, who would have thought the loose forward would play 20 games let alone 100 for the Highlanders?

The man from St Bede's College was struggling to keep up, struggling to make an impact in Super Rugby.

Dixon to many was just a poor buy who was going nowhere.

The man himself admits it was an auspicious start to what has turned into a fine career for the Highlanders.

"Jamie Jo [Joseph] actually picked me in my first year [2011] and brought me into a meeting and said 'I have picked you a year early so you won't be playing this year. You can just sit and watch'. It was quite frustrating," he said.

"My second year I had two cracks at it and then had a pec [pectoral] injury and was out for the rest of the year. If you had told me in 2012 I would play 100 games I would've said 'I don't think so'.

Highlanders new boy Elliot Dixon in his first year with the franchise. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Highlanders new boy Elliot Dixon in his first year with the franchise. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
"It was frustrating but I had some great guys to watch. Adam Thomson, Alando Soakai, John Hardie to watch and learn off. It was pretty cool and to come up with the likes of Bender [Ben Smith], Lima [Sopoaga], Aaron Smith.

"At some points I was going to pull the pin and go somewhere else. But I'm glad I didn't."

Dixon (29) played 13 games in 2013 and the next year he really found his racing stripes.

"You just cannot substitute game time for a young fella. For any player it is quite hard to come on after a few weeks off and perform straight away.

" I think game time counts - it is experience, game fitness, you get used to your role and what you have to do pretty well and you get comfortable in your role.

"For me I'm the type of guy that needs game time and consistent game time."

Getting older meant he had to look after his body and work hard off the field.

Elliot Dixon on the charge against Wales in his test debut at Forsyth Barr Stadium on 2016. PHOTO...
Elliot Dixon on the charge against Wales in his test debut at Forsyth Barr Stadium on 2016. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Dixon played all but one game in 2014 and the following year, as the Highlanders marched to the title, he was one of the side's best, scoring a memorable try in the final.

He made his All Black debut in 2016, starting in the third test against Wales at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

That was a highlight for Dixon as was playing in Ben Smith's 100th and 150th games and watching the side beat the British and Irish Lions in 2017.

He admitted 2017 was a tough year as injuries got in his way and he got somewhat stale.

But this year is going well.

"I'm enjoying the coaches and team-mates and coming in with a smile ... as a professional rugby player you go through dips in form and I'm enjoying my time now."

Dixon will be joined by wife Paige and children Huxley (4) and Toby (3) at the game tonight along with a large family group from Christchurch.

"I could not ask for anything more. Being a one-club man and really enjoying my rugby. I saw myself in my debut against the Brumbies and I looked like a 12-year-old."

Former Highlanders coach Tony Gilbert will present Dixon with a specially made pounamu mere at the end of the match against the Jaguares. The mere is the traditional NZR gift to players who reach 100 competition games for New Zealand teams.

Highlanders v Jaguares

Forsyth Barr Stadium, 5.15pm

Highlanders: Matt Faddes, Jordan Hyland, Rob Thompson, Sio Tomkinson, Tevita Li, Josh Ioane, Aaron Smith, Elliot Dixon, James Lentjes, Luke Whitelock (captain), Tom Franklin, Josh Dickson, Siate Tokolahi, Liam Coltman, Ayden Johnstone. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Tyrel Lomax, Jack Whetton, Liam Squire, Kayne Hammington, Dan Hollinshead, Thomas Umaga-Jensen. 

Jaguares: Emiliano Boffelli, Sebastián Cancelliere, Matías Moroni, Jerónimo de la Fuente (captain), Ramiro Moyano, Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, Felipe Ezcurra, Javier Ortega Desio, Tomás Lezana, Juan Manuel Leguizamón, Lucas Paulos, Marcos Kremer, Enrique Pieretto, Julián Montoya, Mayco Vivas. Reserves: Agustín Creevy, Juan Pablo Zeiss, Santiago Medrano, Tomás Lavanini, Pablo Matera,  Tomás Cubelli, Domingo Miotti, Matías Orlando. 

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe.

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