Rebels front-rower Toby Smith has had a fairly massive few months. From winning his second straight Super Rugby title with the Chiefs, to an ITM Cup Campaign with Waikato alongside Paul Alo-Emile, moving back to Australia to join the Rebels and then getting married last weekend, Smith hasn't had a lot of downtime; not that he is complaining.
"I had a short break after the ITM Cup for three weeks, but moved over to Melbourne and joined the Club in December," he says. It's been really good getting to know the guys; they've all been very welcoming. It's a tight group, and it's great to get to know the lads both on and off the field.
"When I first moved over, I was actually living with Scott Fuglistaller which was great. I was really looking forward to coming back from New Zealand after Christmas, and I am feeling a lot more settled now that my wife and baby have come back over with me. We have our own place in Flemington, which is nice and close to training and seems a good place to live."
Smith may have a Kiwi accent, but the loosehead prop has moved to Melbourne knowing that a good run of form may see him rewarded with a Wallaby call-up.
"I was actually born in Townsville, and moving back to Australia the goal one day is to be a Wallaby. However, initially my goal is to just prove myself to my teammates and our members here at the Rebels in my new environment; I'm not getting ahead of myself with my thinking. First and foremost, I want to get into the playing 23 and then try and score a starting spot.
"I'm doing what my folks did in moving to Australia for a new challenge and something new and different. They spent about two years over here in the late 1980's, which was when I was born, so it's good to follow suit."
Smith has already been exposed to Wallaby Scrum Coach Andrew Blades, and believes that his involvement in pre-season has been a positive. Further, the Rebels' newly-assembled coaching panel have really impressed Toby.
"The coaching group are really good, and they have a lot of attention to detail. There's no shortage of clarity around the game plan and the patterns that we are going to run, so it's good to learn quickly and be up to speed with the other boys despite joining up with the squad a little later."
"It is great when the national team coaches are able to share their wealth of knowledge with us. Our scrum sessions have benefitted hugely from the work we have done with Andrew Blades and Matt Cockbain, and we are improving as a result."
Smith admits that last week's soaring temperatures were a new experience for him, but sees the tough training conditions as a positive in the long run.
"The weather last week, with five days over forty degrees, was certainly like nothing I have ever experienced before," he says. "It was very tough training in that sort of heat, but the boys got through it well. The coaching group helped by bringing training outside of the hottest part of the day which made a difference, but we still had to make sure we watched our fluids both throughout the day and also when we got home as well.
"We'll definitely be able to draw on that hard fitness training, and it helps build character and gets you tighter as a team; hopefully that helps us on the field when we find ourselves under pressure. The intensity is pretty similar to what I was used to at the Chiefs gaining the right fitness base, but the heat here is obviously the difference; it can be pretty hard when it's so warm."
Smith is the only current Rebel to have held aloft the Super Rugby trophy, and his experience will be invaluable in helping guide a young squad towards eventual success.
"There are aspects I can hopefully bring (to the team) after winning the last two Super Rugby titles with the Chiefs," he says. "I am just working out when there are opportunities for me to speak up and add knowledge to try and assist the team, but it is already a very professional environment and everything is very well run.
"The Rebels played really well against us when I was at the Chiefs last year, and put us under pressure through a good team performance and some good individual performances. I think with the players we have coming through, we have the potential to be a good team. The training is going really well, and it's exciting to think about getting on the field in those pre-season matches and then starting Super Rugby."
The first pre-season match is just over a week away, with the Rebels taking on the Waratahs on the border in Albury. With the retirement of Nic Henderson, the Rebels front row is bereft of international experience, and an excited Smith admits that coming up against a Wallaby-laden Waratahs pack will require a big performance.
"I can't wait to get on the field as a Rebel!" Smith admits. "I'm looking forward to seeing where we are at, and having a good crack at it on the field and seeing where we need to work on things before Super Rugby begins. "
"We will sit down next week and have a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the likely opposition; there are lots of internationals there, so it's going to be a tough game for sure in the front row. It's a good challenge to measure ourselves against the best, and see what we still have to work on."
Overall, the quiet yet determined 25 year old is enjoying being in a city that perhaps offers a little more entertainment than his old home.
"Melbourne is a huge city compared to Hamilton, and I am still getting used to that; the GPS in the car helps me out a lot, but I'm still getting used to the traffic," he says.
"I've checked out Williamstown Beach and South Melbourne Markets, a few little things like that, and I am looking forward to getting to know the city even better."
"Now that I'm living close to the racecourse, Scotty (Fuglistaller) is keen for me to host a BBQ breakfast before the races next year, and a few people back home want to come over for it too!"