Cossack Sword - Matt Harvey Voted Players ’Player of the Year'
For the first time since former Selector, Captain Leigh Merrick, presented it to the Royal Navy Rugby Union, a player has won the Cossack Sword in his first season of representative rugby. Matt Harvey was voted by the Senior XV squad as the player’s player of the year and succeeds Dom Taylor as the Cossack Sword holder. The Cossack Sword was presented to the Royal Navy Rugby Union by former player and selector, Leigh Merrick and first awarded in 2000. The sword is for “Ground Gained and Held” and is awarded at the end of each season to the player, from the Royal Navy Senior XV, whose performances over the course of the season best meet the battling qualities invoked by the heritage of the “Cossack Warrior”.
Matt Harvey has impressed all season, primarily as an abrasive blindside flanker but also when called upon, as a very effective lock forward. Though he may not stand out too much to the casual observer it has been his fearsome defence and commitment to policing the darkest recesses of the ruck and maul that has been acknowledged by his peers. This affinity to the darkest depths will no doubt stand him in good stead when he completes his professional training to join the submarine service.
Matt’s early rugby was developed by his hometown club of Kirkcaldy RFC on Scotland’s East coast. He then travelled South, no not to England, but all the way to Canterbury, New Zealand, where his rugby education continued. In New Zealand the flanker is revered in the same way that the fly half is by the Welsh, and there can be no doubt that it was in the furnace of Kiwi rugby at Rangora RFC that his hardened edge was forged. He returned to Scottish rugby before joining the Royal Navy last year and being called into the Senior XV whilst still under training.
As a Kirkcaldy “old boy” there is already a link with the Cossacks. Kirkcaldy RFC holds the distinction of being the first club from the West to tour Siberia in 1990. One of the clubs they played was Krasnoyarsk RFC. Krasnoyarsk is a former closed Soviet area but also the birthplace of the famous Yenisei Cossacksin, one of the most notable Cossack tribes.
Leigh Merrick was an astute player and Selector. When he introduced the Cossack Sword to Navy Rugby he would have known that it would often be won by a backrow forward and probably one more noted for their work rate and battling qualities than their link play. Leigh played alongside some of the Royal Navy’s most fearsome backrow proponents and also selected a few ‘bruisers’ in his day. He would, no doubt, approve of Matt Harvey becoming the fourteenth player to be presented with the Cossack Sword Award.
By Geraint Ashton Jones
Images by Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones