Nine months ago, Angus Macdonald and his partner Mariska welcomed their first son Felix into the world. Little does Felix know, but both his father and grandfather were All Blacks.
“No pressure,” said Angus with a laugh.
We caught up with the new dad and former Blues loose forward to see how he first entered the rugby world and what made him step back from the game two years ago.
It all began on a 1500-acre sheep and cattle farm in the Waipoua Forest, around 90 minutes from Dargaville, north west of Auckland. Angus and his brother Sam, of Canterbury Colts fame, grew up with rugby balls in their hands and their father Hamish’s All Black jersey on the wall. But the draw to rugby wasn’t innate.
“When my mother would ask me and my brother if we wanted to go play rugby in Dargaville, our response was always ‘of course,’ because we knew that after rugby was a stop at the dairy.”
When Angus was 10, the family moved to Whangarei. Hamish had attended Kings College, so it was expected the boys would also. First though, they needed to adjust to a bigger population and school – their rural primary school was at one point made up of 10 students and the sole teacher was their mother.
The adjustment was made and before long Angus was playing First XI cricket and First XV Rugby at Kings. He was also living with a talented young rugby player from out of town who needed a family to board with. That player’s name was Daniel Braid.
The two soon became, great mates, united by their “out-of-towner” status and passion for the game. They eventually worked their way up from New Zealand Age Group and Secondary Schools teams before making the Auckland side in 2001, followed by a successful debut with the Blues in 2003.
“Before I knew it, I was in a Super 12 final and winning the trophy with the team!”
Angus worked his way to become a starting lock/flanker and off the field was working towards a Diploma of Business through AUT, finishing two papers shy of completion.
“For me it was more about the learning and taking your mind off rugby,” Angus said. “To get a taste of learning outside of footy was so important.”
His on-field performance caught the eye of All Blacks selectors and in 2005 Angus was called up to make his debut during a particularly significant match. It was the Grand Slam tour against Wales at Millenium Stadium. The same tour, the same opposition and the same city as his father Hamish’s test debut for the All Blacks in 1972. The only difference was the stadium: Hamish played at Cardiff Arms Park, while Angus played at the neighbouring and upgraded Millenium Stadium.
An ACL injury and knee reconstruction in 2006 forced Angus to watch from the sidelines and reflect on what life would look like post-rugby. The self-reflection didn’t stop him from working his way back into the squad and earning an overseas contract – first in Japan in 2007 and then on to his ancestral roots in Glasgow, before retiring due to bulged discs in his neck.
“I knew I’d have to go through the whole process of trying to get it right, all the operations and rehab,” he said. “At the age of 32 my gut feeling was there’s a whole lot more to life after rugby.”
Just what that “whole lot more” was, he was yet to find out. A 10-week OE helped. So did his first foray into business – a chocolate café that didn’t quite get off the ground and some hotel management with his brother.
He’s spent the last year sports mentoring and developing athletes with Orbit sports management, an experience that Angus describes as his “way of giving back to the game,” and has spent the last 6 months working on a new hire business in the Waste Management Industry called Skippy.
Once again, Angus’ future is linked to rugby – his business partner and life long friend Richard Karam is the son of former All Black Joe Karam. Richard and Angus expect to be operational early next year.
“At our office we play darts and table tennis – that’s my biggest involvement in sport,” he said. “It’s nice to know there are things outside of footy that can drive you.”