Rugby Player Matthew Heaton Finishes Up European Tour with Canadian Senior Team

One local’s rugby career has him calling the UK home.

Stephanie McBride
Publié le 10 janvier 2017

Matthew Heaton taking the field.

©Andrew Orchard 2010

Rugby player Matthew Heaton was home for the holidays, having finished a European tour with the Canadian Senior Team only this past summer.

The Chateauguay Valley Regional alum started playing rugby when he was in high school as a means to make the football team (both teams had the same coach). While Heaton’s first impression of the sport wasn’t the best, he quickly fell in love with rugby. Fast forward nine years and the Godmanchester native is playing for England’s Darlington Mowden Park.

Heaton seems to have set a trend, especially when locals consider how many Valley athletes are playing rugby at a competitive level these days. “I think the Valley breeds athletes! We really had a good sport culture when I was at CVR,” says Heaton. “Mr. Furey really instilled a good work ethic and desire to be better in every team he coached [that I was on]. I think that stuck with me personally, and I think it’s a good representation of the sport culture of the whole Valley. Rugby just seems to be the sport we are all excelling in.”

Only 23, Heaton began his athletic career playing for all the Canadian age grades, beginning with Under-17 Canada. Later, he played for the Men’s “A” development team—gaining an opportunity this past June when he made the full Senior Men’s Team. Most recently, Heaton participated in Canada’s Rise As One Tour. While Rugby does have its fan base in Canada (it is the country’s 23rd most popular sport), it is a much more popular game overseas (it ranks in the top three), which is one of the reasons that Heaton is currently based in the UK—but the transition wasn’t an easy one. “Getting to where I am now was a struggle! I had to do two and half seasons in a lower division with Otley RUFC to get noticed. Don’t get me wrong—Otley was a great club and they played better rugby than I could get [at the time] in Canada, but I was ambitious and wanted to climb up the ladder.” As a Canadian crossing over to play in Europe, Heaton also didn’t have any local references—something that it is fairly important in the UK. “The player recruitment process is completely different for rugby, someone with a good reputation saying you’re a good player is better than the coach seeing you play,” explains Heaton. Fortunately, he prevailed.

Heaton acknowledges that there is a difference playing overseas. “I think the main difference about playing overseas is that there is a following for rugby here and a lot more people playing it.” The UK season hosts approximately 33 games each year—more than Canada’s season, which is shorter due to both the difficulties of winter and the lack of teams. Heaton explains. “I did the math once. In two seasons of competitive rugby in England, I’d done the equivalent of seven years of competitive Canadian rugby. When you’re a young developing player, the more games you get, the better!” While Heaton admits that it can be difficult to be away from family on birthdays and holidays, he does enjoy his lifestyle in the UK, having been based there for the past three years. “One of the coolest things about England is the variety of people, accents and mini cultures. I live in Leeds, and if you drove an hour or two in any direction, the accent and the towns would change dramatically, wherever you ended up.” 

Heaton is currently working on his contract for the next rugby season.