Trib­utes flow for Coun­ties hard­man

MAC MCCALLION: 1950-2018

Waikato Times - - Sport - OBIT­U­ARY

Mac McCallion, renowned as a tough, pas­sion­ate rugby coach who had great suc­cess with Coun­ties and the Blues, has died.

War­rick McCallion passed away overnight on Tues­day af­ter a bat­tle with can­cer. He was 67.

The 67-year-old was named New Zealand coach of the year in 1996 and 1997 for his work with the Coun­ties NPC team.

He was Gra­ham Henry’s as­sis­tant at the Auck­land Blues dur­ing a four-year spell that saw them reach three con­sec­u­tive Su­per 12 fi­nals, lift­ing the tro­phy on two oc­ca­sions in 1997 and 1998. He was ap­pointed Fiji’s na­tional coach­ing di­rec­tor in March 2002 and took the Fiji rugby team to the 2003 World Cup.

McCallion had a string of his Coun­ties rugby fam­ily visit him dur­ing his ill­ness. There have al­ready been trib­utes paid.

For­mer Coun­ties cap­tain Er­rol Brain said: ‘‘Mac gave all of us, as in­di­vid­u­als, a strong sense of self be­lief to be able to com­pete with the big­ger unions.

‘‘Mac was a hard man, I have never trained so hard and be­cause of that he cre­ated a team cul­ture that was tight. I have a lot of mem­o­ries of the games and also very spe­cial ones of him as I was for­tu­nate to be his cap­tain.

‘‘Un­der Mac, we knew we could be com­pet­i­tive against teams with plenty of All Blacks and win those games which we were for­tu­nate enough to do dur­ing round robins. He took us to two fi­nals in 1996 and 1997 and that was a great pe­riod in Coun­ties his­tory.’’

An­other one of McCallion’s play­ers, Tony Marsh, echoed Brain’s com­ments.

‘‘The en­vi­ron­ment Mac cre­ated was un­com­pro­mis­ing, hard-nosed but fun, which trans­lated well on the field. We were part of the pre­pro era but we never trained so hard and that built con­fi­dence.

‘‘I am grate­ful for be­ing coached by him and be­ing part of that era for Coun­ties. It was a pretty spe­cial time. Mac con­trib­uted to our devel­op­ment both on and off the field and in­stilled val­ues and a strong work ethic that set us up for rugby and life out­side of the sport. He was a top man, who we all re­spected.’’

There was also a trib­ute from Coun­ties Manukau Rugby Foot­ball Union chair­man Craig Carter.

‘‘It’s a sad day for Coun­ties Manukau as one our favourite sons has passed away. They don’t make them like Mac any­more and he will be missed by all within the rugby com­mu­nity.’’

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