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Swampfox Fletcher Morgan, 23, has been named in the New Zealand Heartland XV 2023 squad. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

First-time Swampfox earns his black jersey

Following his successful first season with the Swampfoxes, Fletcher Morgan will now be donning a black jersey for the New Zealand Heartland XV 2023 squad.
The 23-man team comprises the best players from across the country, rewarded for their standout performances in this year’s Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship competition.
Fletcher said he was thrilled to be named in the squad, which has its first two-match campaign against his old stomping ground Canterbury on Wednesday. 
“I’ve been in Christchurch for the last five years. I studied at Lincoln University and was trying my best to get amongst the Canterbury scene down there. But this year, I felt I was due for a change of scenery and came up here and played club in Hamilton. Then, I got a call from one of the Swampfox coaches, Joe Murray, to come across and play for Waihi.
“I go back to that phone call a lot,” Fletcher said, “Because he was adamant on getting me to play for a Heartland team so I could be eligible for this Heartland squad, and it’s come full circle now, so I made sure to give him a big hug when I heard the news.”
Fletcher, who plays on the wing and at fullback, was one of the top points scorers of the 12 Heartland teams, with 116 points from only eight games.
He said the Valley’s first game and win of the season against Whanganui – which was also his debut for the Swampfoxes – was a highlight. He scored two tries and made six out of seven goal kick attempts.
“It was my first year in the Heartland competition and I set out to have as much fun as I could, and I like to think you play your best rugby when you’re having fun,” he said.
“The prospect of a black jersey at the end of the season was always pretty inviting for me, and I managed to have a great season with the boys. I think there’s several boys in that [Valley] team who are unlucky not to be in the same position.”
Fletcher, 23, said his successful performance this season was a product of the Swampfox squad as a whole, and he wants to put in a good performance with the Heartland XV team to “turn some heads” and make his Valley team proud.
Playing rugby professionally is his end-goal.
New Zealand Heartland XV head coach Nigel Walsh said there was a “thorough process” during player selections and he was impressed with each individual throughout the season.
“Every player stood out during the Heartland competition and I’ve got a good mix of experience across the board,” he said.
The Heartland XV will play in a two-match campaign against Canterbury Development on November 1 and the New Zealand Barbarians on November 4. Both matches will be streamed live on New Zealand Rugby.