Adversity is no stranger to Michael Hobbs.
Having overcome career threatening back surgery to return to Super Rugby this season, he has found himself immersed in a Blues team facing their own challenges as they have recorded just one win in their last nine outings.
But all of that pales in comparison to the adversity 24-year-old Hobbs has faced off the field.
His father, legendary All Black Jock Hobbs, tragically passed away while the Blues were in South Africa, forcing Hobbs to return home to be with his family.
It was a shattering loss for Hobbs who adored his father and would regularly call him to talk through his performances, but throughout all the heartache, he has been surrounded by the support of his Blues teammates and never stopped training.
That perseverance and dedication has been rewarded as Hobbs earns his first start since round two tonight against the Hurricanes, and he is relishing the opportunity of leading the team from the opening whistle.
“It’s been a tough few weeks and I still have my moments,” Hobbs conceded.
“But I’m really excited about starting. In some ways it’s harder coming off the bench because for 40, 50 or 60 minutes you’re just sat there thinking about it but at least I’ll be out there from the start and immersed in the game.
“I’m feeling good and hopefully I can put the boys in the right areas of the field and come away with a win.”
Blues head coach Pat Lam said going through adversity, as the whole team is at the moment, reveals the true character of a person, and he believes Hobbs has character in spades.
“We all know the tragic events around his dad and he’s been through so much but throughout that all of that he’s always fronted at training,” Lam said.
“He’s done his work, he’s been supportive of all the guys, particularly Gareth who is playing in his position. He’s done everything he can to push for a spot so on the back of that, to get a start and go down to Wellington is a welcome reward. He’s pretty excited about it and I’m looking forward to him playing well.”
The Blues may be battling as they sit at the bottom of the Super Rugby ladder with just one win to their name, but Hobbs said there was still plenty of confidence they could come away with a victory against the Hurricanes tonight.
“We’re still in a positive frame of mind, we know there’s a lot of pressure on us and that isn’t lost on us, we just talked about not focussing on the outcome,” he said.
“We know we desperately need a win we but can’t allow ourselves to focus on the outcome of the game, it’s about just getting really clear on what our individual roles are and going out there and executing them.”
Lam said the key to defeating the Hurricanes tonight lay in playing as a team.
“There’s no doubt our backs are against the wall. We’re all still fighting and I have no doubt about the effort the guys are putting in but it’s really about us playing as a team.
“I’ve always said the beauty of rugby is that it’s a team sport, you can’t achieve anything unless everyone does their bit and is on the same page. Although there were good intentions from players to make things happen it’s about doing it as a group and the task then becomes a lot easier.”
The last time the Blues faced the Hurricanes, a try to Conrad Smith after the hooter sounded snatched a victory for the men in black and yellow as they triumphed 26-25.
But Lam believes his team is more than capable of turning the tables and defeating the Canes tonight.
“It was really tough to watch that try to the Hurricanes after the hooter but that’s also what drives you. We know we’re good enough to win the game, it’s about going out and doing it we know it’s not going to come easy. They’ve lost two games too so there are two desperate teams that really want the win.”
The match kicks off at 7.35pm at Westpac Stadium tonight.