After consultation with Mullins about the set-up and structure, and with nothing to lose, Essex opted to head to the south island after finishing his exams at the end of May. Arriving on a Tuesday, Michael hit the ground running, togging out for the local club side Excelsior on the Saturday.
He continues playing with the Excelsior club, and has also featured in both of North Otago's pre-season games against Otago and Southland, gaining invaluable experience from playing Air New Zealand Cup sides.
North Otago are now working towards the start of the Heartland Championship which begins at the end of August. They last won the competition in 2007 and have made it to at least the semi final stages for the last ten years.
So far Essex is enjoying the whole experience and the more running style of rugby, and is hopeful his time in New Zealand will help him develop into a better player, or possibly pave the way for a return to professional rugby.