Early into the season we knew that Kurt Morath would have a significant role on a very talented and deep San Diego Breakers team. Not only was he going to be a catalyst in thier attack as their fly-half, but Morath would bring San Diego some vital points with his kicking. So we dubbed Kurt " Morath "Money Morath" as his foot was sure to bring points and be of great value to the Breakers. Thus we started the #MoneyMorath when referring to him the rest of the season (on Twitter). Some fans joined us with posting memes of Jerry Maguire saying "Show me the money" (Kyle Willoughby started that).
Money Morath (that's what we'll refer to him as in this piece) had in instant impact when he joined the Breakers after the season started. He missed two games late in the season which ( his kicking could have supplied the Breakers likely 10-13 points in each game which could may have changed the outcomes). With all those games missed (4), Money Morath lead PRO Rugby is scoring most of the season and was edged out in the last weekend by the Rush's Volney Rouse who had a great season himself.
We had spoke to Money Morath back in March, just before he left New Zealand to come play professionally in San Diego (see our story Coming To America) and he really didn't have much in terms of what the season would hold for him. He'd heard of the great lifestyle of San Diego and the chance that he'd get to play in good weather, but beyond that he really didn't have a set expectation.
So when we caught up with him this time just before he boarded a plane to head back to New Zealand, he had a whole new perspective after a great first season of PRO Rugby.
Below is our conversation with Kurt "Money" Morath.
The Rugby Republic (RR): What was the biggest surprise for you in playing professionally here in the States?
Kurt Morath (KM): I think the biggest surprise was how many people followed rugby in general and how much support we had down here in San Diego. I really didn’t expect it to be as popular as it is in San Diego!
RR: I know last time we spoke you'd mentioned looking forward to playing in better weather, did the better weather conditions help your game?
KM: Yeah, the weather here was definitely a great change. I can't say it rained too often while I was here. I think from the games we played the conditions definitely contributed to some exciting rugby across the league. Playing in dry conditions definitely made kicking a bit easier for me.
RR: The Breakers had some good success early on, what changed (injuries, personnel, etc)?
KM: I think early on we did well as there were a lot of turnovers in the games. We had quite good strike power in the backline so that really worked well for us. I think as the teams improved there were less turnovers and our set piece probably wasn’t as strong as it could’ve been. We did have a few injuries throughout the season but I don’t think we can blame the results on that.
RR: What do you feel were some of your main contributions to the team (other than all the points your boot brought). So rugby IQ, experience, helping younger guys off the field?
KM: I think rugby IQ was probably the big one for me. Our team is pretty young so there was a lot of stuff that was new to the boys. When you go through the team we had such a wide range of rugby experience. From guys who have played internationally to guys who played there first games of rugby this season. I definitely think the team will be a lot better next season for having played this inaugural season as professionals.
RR: For the younger readers what did you do, or how did you develop your kicking game?
KM: I think there is only one way to improve your kicking and that is just a lot of practice. I probably don’t kick as much as I used to, but I still try and maintain the quality of my practice. I guess its like anything, the more you do something the easier it gets. So practice.
RR: Who were some of your teammates that really surprised you with their play?
KM: It is hard to say whether anyone really surprised me or not this season. I think coming into it I had a pretty open mind so I wasn’t really expecting anything. I think what was a pleasant surprise was the progression all our players showed overall. I know we didn’t get the best results this season but as long as guys are improving I guess that is all you can ask for.
RR: What did you think of the quality of rugby here in the States? Do you think we are on the right track?
KM: I think if you compare the first game to the the last games of PRO Rugby the standard of rugby is completely different. You can definitely see a vast improvement from the guys over here.
RR: Having international and professional experience how do you think this league will help American rugby?
KM: I think you can already see the benefits of having a professional competition here in America. The level has improved pretty rapidly and I think that is only going to be good for USA Rugby moving forward. I think having this competition has also helped to identify for national coaches some new rugby talent that we might not have seen had this competition been played.
RR: What was your best moment/experience on or field the field this season?
KM: On the field...the best moment was probably beating Ohio at home on the very last play of the game! Off the field was getting to experience the lifestyle down in San Diego.
RR: What's your off season plans? Training, etc?
KM: Now that it is the off season I’m in the process of sorting out my options overseas. Looking to continue my rugby and put myself in the best position so I can to play for Tonga on the European Tour come November. So it will be busy. I would love to be able to come back next year and play with San Diego again and this time win the title.
RR: What we all want to know is will you be back next year?
KM: Mate, I’d definitely love to come back. Had such a great experience here and really enjoyed my time living in San Diego. Hopefully everything works out and you’ll see me in the Breakers colors next season !!!
RR: We know rugby isn't about individual awards or accolades but were you a bit disappointed that you didn't finish as the points leader? You did a hell of a job and that's with missing 2 games with injury and first few leagues games before you came over.
KM: Like you said rugby isn’t about individual awards, but I guess it would’ve been nice to get it. Missing a few games didn’t help my cause but at the same time there were some pretty good players out there this season. I’l have to give it another crack next season !!!
Money Morath is a well know international player who will have a number of options to still play professionally. While he'd like to return to San Diego, he also has a family and will need to find the best situation for them all. He did love San Diego, the fans, the city and the whole vibe and that plays in our favor.
Tonga will have several games this fall in Europe and thus it won't be much of an off season for this guy as he'll be working to make the team and also be ready to help Tonga rack up some wins on their tour.
We are grateful to Money Morath for his time all this season. He's not just an outstanding player but an outstanding guy. We wish him safe travels and hope to see him representing Tonga in a few months. To PRO Rugby and we are sure the San Diego Breaker fans will agree, if their is an opportunity for Money Morath to play here next year for the Breakers we hope the powers that be make that happen!