‘TODDY’ HUMBLED BY CRL PLAYER OF THE DECADE HONOUR
Linwood Keas and New Era Glazing Canterbury Bulls stalwart Alex Todd’s naming as the Canterbury Rugby League Player of the Decade is a reminder there will always be a place for hard-working, consistent, tough grafters in our game.
Following on from Jonny Limmer, who was named the player of the 2000s, Todd was adjudged Canterbury’s standout player of the 2010s by a panel consisting of the Bulls’ coaches during the decade: Brent Stuart, Mike Dorreen, Darrell Coad and Andrew Auimatagi.
After receiving nominations from the CRL’s clubs, the judges were each asked to vote for their three top players of the decade on a 3-2-1 basis. Todd was the resounding winner with 10 of a possible 12 votes.
The other players to attract votes from a stacked field of contenders were Hornby duo James Baxendale and Corey Lawrie, Celebration great Kyle Leka, Riccarton icon Shane Tamatea and Linwood veteran Erwin Sauni.
“It means bloody heaps,” says Todd, who turned out for NZ Residents in Auckland on Sunday.
“Considering the players I’ve played alongside, to be receiving this award is pretty unbelievable. When I was informed last week I was taken aback a bit – it’s a huge achievement for me to receive such an award.”
Todd grew up in the Redcliffs area and came through Linwood’s junior ranks. After dabbling in rugby union at Sumner, he returned to the Keas as a teenager and earned his first taste of senior footy as the club took out the 2007 premier reserves title.
A year later he helped the Keas lift the Pat Smith Trophy courtesy of a victory over Papanui in the grand final, which led on to a Bulls debut as a 19-year-old in 2009, featuring in the Stuart-coached Bartercard Premiership success.
Todd briefly returned to the 15-a-side game with Sumner in 2014, but he was back on Linwood’s roster the following season and immediately regained his representative spot.
“I definitely missed the league environment, but going to rugby was something I wanted to do – go back to my junior club where I played rugby as a kid, give it a go and see what it was about,” Todd explains.
“But I definitely enjoyed playing league more and I’ve made friends for life.”
The indefatigable Todd has been at the front-row coalface for the Keas’ run of five straight CRL grand final triumphs from 2016-20. Incredibly, he has won the Mel Cooke Trophy as the standout player in the decider an unprecedented three times – in 2017-18 (scoring the late match-winning try in the latter) and ’20.
Meanwhile, he has been ever-present for his province over the past six seasons – again captaining the New Era Glazing Bulls in the recent NZRL National Premiership campaign.
Todd credits his individual success to, and bases his game around, some simple rugby league principles.
“My fitness, and just turning up and helping my mate out on the field. I’m not the flashest of players, but I try and get in and do my job.
“A lot of it’s to do with our culture at Linwood as well. You always want to be there for your mate and not let them down.”
A regular skipper for Linwood and Canterbury, the battle-hardened Todd – once the fresh-faced engine-room tyro in both sides – has slipped seamlessly into a leadership role in recent seasons.
“It’s something I’ve slowly moved into,” he muses.
“I’ve been at Linwood for a wee while and when Aga (Fiso) stepped away from the leadership group (when he retired in 2017) it was a natural progression to move into that role with Paul (Sauni).
“I’m probably not the biggest talker but I do try to lead through my actions.”
If there has been one constant in Todd’s career, it’s the guidance of Auimatagi. He was Todd’s first premier reserves coach, while the pair played together in the Keas’ 2008 grand final win and the Bulls’ successful Bartercard Premiership charge a year later.
Auimatagi and Todd then paired up as coach and front-row anchor in five straight grand finals (2015-19) for four wins and in every Bulls campaign since 2016.
“Andrew’s had a huge influence on my career,” Todd says.
“When I started playing premier Bs in 2007 he was my coach, and I came through and played alongside him at club and rep level, now he’s coached me for a long time. But he’s a really good bloke and really knows the game.
“Another guy is (former teammate and current Keas coach) Aga, he’s a pretty amazing leader and someone I’ve always looked up to.”
Todd, who turns 31 on Monday, has attained virtually every achievement possible on the Canterbury local and New Zealand domestic scenes. But the workhorse declares he’s still got plenty of footy left in him.
“As long as the body keeps holding up alright I’ll keep playing for as long as I can. You’re a long time retired.”
The 150-game milestone for the Keas should fall for Todd in 2021, who brought up a century of appearances in 2017.
“On behalf of the rugby league community in Canterbury we would like to congratulate Alex Todd on receiving this outstanding accolade based on his commitment, perseverance and achievement over the previous decade,” CRL CEO Duane Fyfe says.
“‘Toddy’ is a great ambassador when representing his club and province, and has a reputation for doing his talking on the field with his direct style of play.”
The CRL Board would also like to thank the judging panel for its time and diligence during the process of selection.