The Blues have known few rugby players as tenacious as Steven Devine. On the field, he was willing to throw himself into every tussle over the ball and had laser-sharp accuracy in passing. These days, Steve’s time is broken up between working, spending time with his two sons and heading out for a spot of fishing. There’s no more rugby for this former Blues man.
We caught up with Steve recently to reminisce on his Blues days and see what his world looks like now.
The former halfback reaches just shy of 5 foot 8 and boasts a slight Aussie twang, thanks to his upbringing across the ditch. In 1998, Steve was ready to make New Zealand his rugby home. He started down the road to the Blues fame on March 20, 1999 against the Reds.
Steve experienced the ups and downs of professional rugby; he said the team on the whole “really enjoyed ourselves.” There was a great group of Blues men in this era, including Carlos Spencer, Justin Collins, Daniel Braid and Isa Nacewa. And for Steve, it was just a group of mates playing some good footy.
He would play 70 caps for the Blues and 10 for the All Blacks, before he was forced to hang up the boots in 2007 for health reasons. In his own words, Steve had taken “too many whacks to the noodle.” The concussions were some of the worst the sport has seen – he couldn’t step out in to sunlight and would need to rest after conversations, even falling asleep in the hallway of his house. It took almost three years for Steve to begin feeling like his old self.
As a result, he took his time recovering and then finding the right career. There was a brief stint as the manager of Auckland Rugby’s ITM Cup team, but Steve missed being a member of a tight-knit team.
Eventually he brought his heroic antics on the field to a career off the field by working fulltime as a fire fighter at Avondale Fire Station. That means four shifts a week – two 10-hour and two 14-hour shifts – followed by four days off.
“It’s something I always was pretty keen to get into,” said Steve. “I really enjoy the team aspect of the work and being able to help people when they’re in need is pretty cool.”
And what’s even better is the amount of time that’s available to spend with his two sons, who are 10 and 7 and both keen rugby players, just like their dad.
His eldest is a member of the Ponsonby Rugby Club Wolfpack, the club’s Under-11 team. And Steve is one of the dads who help out with coaching.
“I get a huge amount of enjoyment from watching my kids, they’re cricket mad in the summer and it’s all rugby in the winter,” he said. “I get my sporting fix from watching them these days.”
Added to this, Steve has been helping an Aussie friend get the backyard-cricket game called Sticky Wicky off the ground here in New Zealand. It’s a fun option for Kiwi kids trying their arm at our summer sport, and “it’s also pretty fun for the big kids after the little kids have gone to bed.”
And as for his former club, Steve is still an avid fan and is looking forward to the future.
“I know it won’t be a short turnaround, but I’m genuinely excited about the next few years,” he said. “Tana (Umaga) has got an amazing ability to press individual people’s buttons and get the most out of them.”
“And I think that’s what the Blues need.”