Chiefs livewire Damian McKenzie will start at fullback for the All Blacks in the first Bledisloe test. Self-confessed Wannabe Rugby Mum Angela Cuming takes a moment to appreciate the many talents of our (adopted) hometown hero.
First let me say that Damian is practically family. My Aunty Marion and Uncle Peter have a grandson who went to varsity with Damian and they are good mates and one time he brought Damian over to their house for dinner. I am insanely jealous about this because my Aunty Marion is an amazing cook and by Uncle Peter loves having a few beers and telling people everything that is currently wrong with the state of modern rugby and I feel if I were there Damian and I would have become firm friends and probably snuck out early to go to Shenanigans for a Wild Turkey and Coke.
He probably would have looked at me like this when he was suggesting we go for a beer:
My Aunty Marion later reported that Damian was a very nice young man and very quiet and polite. This was a couple of years ago and I predicted then that he would be an All Black before too long. I based this prediction on a few things, most notably the fact he seemed to be playing very well for the Mighty Mooloo Men of the Waikato Rugby Union.
Damian made his debut for the Chiefs in 2015 and was named in the All Blacks squad in 2016.
I for one am very happy about his sudden rise to rugby fame. I am what you called a Wannabe Rugby Mum, or WRB. I have three little kids and my dream was for at least one of my children to one day play rugby for New Zealand. Then I ended up with three boys and I had to re-think my ambitions but I figured the All Blacks were about as good as the Black Ferns so my dream was back on.
As an WRB I have a very special place in my heart for Damien. A lot of it has to do with his smile. His wholesome, cheeky, yes-I-know-I-am-a-little-bit-cute-but I-don’t-have-time-for-romance-I-am-here-to-play-rugby-and-I-call-my-mum-every-Sunday smile.
I love that he’s not the biggest bloke on the field. That he’s probably had to work harder at training than a lot of his team mates, that he’s had (and still has) doubters questioning his ability to play at the top level.
My little boy Tommy is not yet two but already loves running around with a rugby ball. Tommy is an identical twin,born at 34 weeks. He was in NICU for a fortnight. If ever he decides he wants to be a professional rugby player I will tell him about Damian, about how he was never the biggest or strongest but he had the heart of a lion and when it comes to playing for the Chiefs or the All Blacks that’s what counts most.
Did I also mention Damian’s smile?
Sometimes he switches up his smile and he does this:
And then he does this:
People say Damian was a surprise selection to start as fullback for the first Bledisloe game in Sydney but people who said that must never have watched him play rugby because he’s always been a standout on the field.
I asked Mr Angela, who when not letting our cats out at 5am or cleaning baby spew off the rug, is Very Respected rugby writer Paul Cully.
He says Damian is ”brave, fast and has fancy footwork” and he wasn’t surprised at all to see him selected at fullback.
”McKenzie plays above his weight,” he said.
”He is definitely the real thing.”
And finally, if ever there was any doubt about Damien’s skills as an All Black, let my Google image search results have the final word.
And Damian, if you are ever over at Aunty Marion’s again please feel free to invite me along. It won’t be weird at all, promise.