Australian speedster Matt Hood combines rugby and business with Toronto Arrows
Hood says playing rugby overseas has always appealed to him, with Major League Rugby a possible destination after finishing his stint with the Australian sevens. A fellow Aussie, Paddy Ryan, was with the San Diego Legion and offered to put him in touch “with the right people,” which included Arrows GM Mark Winokur.
“The Arrows presented the opportunity and I jumped at it,” said Hood, who signed in late December, arriving in early January.
It helped that Hood has a Canadian passport, thanks to his father who hails from Winnipeg. Hood Sr. met his future wife, an Australian in Hawaii, and ended up settling Down Under.
At five-foot-eight and 170 pounds, Matt Hood is a compact package. But a fast one. He has already left more than one MLR defender in his tracks.
In his three starts for the Arrows, Hood has carried 29 times for 454 metres, which ranks third on the team behind Gaston Mieres and Spencer Jones in overall metres carried and most metres carried per game.
Hood will make his fourth start on the wing Saturday when the Arrows (2-3-0, 10 points) play the Utah Warriors (2-3-0, 12 points) at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman. Despite missing 10 players through injury, Toronto’s matchday 23 includes 10 Canada and one Argentina internationals.
“The experience has been unreal,” Hood said of life as an Arrow. “It’s just been so different to anything I’ve experienced before in terms of coming over. I knew absolutely no one, foreign environment, a new place. In that sense it was pretty challenging.”
The club and its players have made it easy, welcoming him with open arms. He shares a house with teammates Guiseppe du Toit, James O’Neill and Sam Mace.
The hope is his girlfriend, who is finishing up her master’s degree in Sydney, will join him here once her studies are done.
Getting to see North America has been a plus. Hood started on the wing against the Los Angeles Giltinis in Langford, B.C., before playing at Old Glory DC (Washington) and NOLA Gold (New Orleans).
He missed last week’s 21-15 loss at the New England Free Jacks, getting permission from the Arrows to take advantage of a bye week before the game to travel back to Australia to attend a wedding.
Hood appeared in 25 games over seven tournaments for the Australian sevens side from 2017 to 2019, sandwiched around stints playing 15s for Sydney University in the Shute Shield.
He scored nine tries on the sevens circuit, missing some of 2018 with several hamstring injuries.
He got to play in events in Europe, South Africa, New Zealand as well as Dubai and Las Vegas. And he wasted little time showing his wheels, scoring his debut try, against Kenya in Dubai by tracking down a kick en route to the try-line.
“I absolutely loved it. It was amazing,” he said of his experience on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. “You’re travelling the world playing a bit of footie with your mates. It’s pretty hard to beat.”
Toronto Arrows Matchday Squad
Cole Keith, Andrew Quattrin, Isaac Salmon, Mike Sheppard (capt.), Paul Ciulini, Lucas Rumball, James O’Neill, Ronan Foley, Ross Braude, Sam Malcolm, Brock Webster, Ueta Tufuga, Mitch Richardson, Matt Hood, Conor McCann.
Jack McRogers, Rob Brouwer, Tyler Rowland, Adrian Wadden, Tomas de la Vega, Chris Bell, Will Kelly, Dennon Robinson-Bartlett.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2022
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press