Tributes flow for Counties hardman
MAC MCCALLION: 1950-2018
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.’’