Wed, Nov 17, 2021 12:43 PM
Quentin MacDonald in action for the Tasman Mako against Wellington this season. Photo Shuttersport
The wheel will have turned full circle when Quentin MacDonald runs out to play his 100th game in Tasman colours on Saturday.
In September 2007, aged just 18 and fresh out of Marlborough Boys’ College, the rookie hooker trotted onto Lansdowne Park in Blenheim, making his first appearance against Waikato’s Mooloos.
On Saturday, 14 years further on, he will face the same opponents when Tasman attempt to complete at ‘three-peat’ of NPC premiership titles at Hamilton’s FMG Stadium.
A 19-year-old Quentin MacDonald in action for Tasman in 2008, his first full season. Photo Shuttersport
The 33-year-old vividly recalls his first game for the Mako.
“I think I played around five minutes off the bench,” he said. “I remember I weighed about 93kg, and was up against Aled de Malmanche, who was one of the strongest players in NZ rugby.
“It was an awesome day … we only just lost, but playing my first game in Blenheim in front of a packed house was a great memory.”
Another milestone match that holds special memories for the MacDonald family was his 50th. It came against Hawke’s Bay at Trafalgar Park in 2013 and saw Quentin front up against his younger brother Jesse, who played hooker for the Magpies that day.
“It was fun to play against Jesse … we got the win that day and it was great that we were at home among family and friends,” said Quentin.
Quentin plays his 50th game, against Hawke's Bay, in 2013. Photo Shuttersport.
Since his debut match, he has become an integral part of the Mako mix, missing only the 2010 season with a knee injury, then playing his trade in France from 2016-19.
With Covid spreading uncertainty worldwide, he decided to return home in 2020 and the Mako coaches eagerly returned him to the fold.
Tasman’s only other centurions are Robbie Malneek, with 104 appearances, and Alex Ainley, who played exactly 100 matches.
Quentin is well aware he will be joining exalted company on Saturday, especially after figuring his time at the Mako was over when he set off for France, having played 78 games.
“When I left I knew that I would need a couple of seasons [to reach 100 games] so didn’t think I would get there. But it has all panned out well.
“My body is good, I’m still enjoying my rugby so I will just keep chipping away and see how long I can keep going.”
A milestone looms at FMG Stadium on Saturday for the durable hooker. Photo Shuttersport
He is also grateful that the formation of the Tasman union allowed him to continue to play the sport he loves at home and in front of his family and friends.
“When Tasman first formed no-one knew quite what to expect but I knew as soon as it happened that I didn’t have to leave home to play professional rugby. That was a big drawcard which was always going to mean a lot to me.”
A stream of coaches and fellow players have come and gone during Quentin’s Mako career, the durable hooker singling out Kieran Keane, Leon MacDonald and current coach Andrew Goodman as the most influential mentors.
“I have just taken little bits and pieces from each [coach] but KK [Keane] taught me heaps about the game … he had a huge influence.”
Playing alongside such influential team-mates as Kade Poki, Joe Wheeler, Liam Squire and David Havili, plus sharing the hooker’s role with brother Jesse for a couple of seasons, were highlights.
“We have also had such awesome leaders. Goody [Andrew Goodman] was one of my favourite captains, along with Shane [Christie] ... just the mana they possess, I was always ready to follow them into battle.”
Much has been talked about the ‘Mako culture’, which has propelled the nation’s newest union to the top of the NPC tree. Quentin said it took some time to grow, but now it is “the people that make the culture work”.
“When I came back from France I asked, ‘what is [the culture] like these days’ and I was told that it is exactly the same, the only thing that is different is the faces.
“I am indebted to Tasman for giving me the opportunity to reach this milestone … from my first game to my 100thgame my love for the game and for this region hasn’t wavered, in fact it is probably stronger now than it has ever been.”