Our weekly feature - The Armchair Expert - returns just in time for the finals!
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16 hours ago
QUITE often it only takes that lucky break for a footballer to make a career breakthrough. Forget all the blood, sweat and tears over many seasons ... a twist of fate sometimes dictates his future. Although only 20, New Zealand Chris Fox knows something about the vagaries of rugby league. A promising junior in Wellington, he was snapped up by the Auckland-based New Zealand Warriors as a member of their development squad. Although his parents live in Auckland, Fox still calls Wellington home and Wainuiomata in Lower Hutt his junior club. Current international Paul Whatuira and rising Cowboys star David Faiumu also hail from the same club. While Fox played for Wellington in the national Bartercard Cup competition, he also trained one night a week with the Warriors development squad in Auckland. Disillusioned by the departure of Warriors coach Daniel Anderson, Fox asked his manager to find him a new club at the start of last season. "I asked him to get me somewhere and I ended up at Redcliffe," Fox said. "I didn't know anything about the Queensland Cup yet alone the Redcliffe club. I was told it was near Brisbane and that was it." Fox turned up at Redcliffe in January last year, played a trial and found himself in the club's A grade. "I found it tough at the start as I'm pretty quiet and I was meeting new players all the time," he said. "And the heat was something else. Coming from Wellington I was used to it being cold and raining. I love it here now and won't go back home. My confidence picked up at the end of last season and I gained a good insight of what was needed to make the top grade." Fox loved the conditions and competition so much that he ended up Redcliffe's player of the year in A grade, a fair achievement for any newcomer to a club as strong as the Dolphins. "I was helped by the fact that I didn't miss any games during the season," he said. "A lot of players went back and forth to Premier League and I stayed in A grade. "I started at five-eighth, then went to centre and then fullback. The position I quite like is five-eighth." With his versatility, about the only position he can't play is front-row. The 2006 season brought more rewards for the nuggetty Fox, even though club captain Shane Perry maintains a hold on the No. 6 jersey in Premier League. Included in the top team's train-on squad for last year's finals, Fox was elevated to the Dolphins' top squad from the first fixture of the season. "I've been getting about half a game," he said. "My job is to come on and help out when some of the boys are getting tired. "I have been playing mainly hooker and some five-eighth. I love the tackling over here. The code is tougher back home but it's faster here and the skills are better. It's more of a bash-up at home." No relation to famous All Blacks kicking machine Grant Fox, the younger version weighs in at 85 kilograms. He keeps fit working as a paver/concreter with fellow Dolphin Richie Russell for the Redcliffe-based Redpine Paving. He also has had more good news this season with the arrival of his girlfriend from New Zealand. "She keeps me on track and it's all going well," he said. "My next goal is to try to get a crack at the NRL. "It doesn't matter what club it is, I'd just like to have a shot at it. The opportunity is here at Redcliffe to impress the right people." He is going about it the right way with his first Queensland Cup try against Easts in round 4. "I wanted to get a try," he said. "I was playing five-eighth and it was the last play of the game." He followed up with a try in the televised round 6 match against the Norths Devils, a fixture when he came into his own as Perry was on duty with the Broncos again. Fox rode his luck in the week leading up to the Norths match as he had to appear before the judiciary on a kicking charge. Luckily for himself and the club he was cleared and took his place at the base of the scrum with Marty Turner.