Saturday’s National Rugby Championship clash at Scully Park capped off what has been a breakout season for Narrabri’s Will McDonnell.
The former Blue Boars junior was at the start of the season just hoping to cement a first grade spot with Sydney University after being hampered by injury last season.
He well and truly surpassed that, the 22-year-old’s list of achievements over the season including playing for the Waratahs on their tour of Japan, being named the Rookie of the Year for the Shute Shield competition and Sydney Uni’s Rookie of the Year, and earning a call-up to the NSW Country Eagles squad.
He went on to pull on the Eagles jersey in six of their seven games and was a consistent figure in the centres starting in five of them.
The Eagles wrapped up their campaign on Saturday and while they didn’t come away with a win, McDonnell said it was “awesome” to get to play in the region he grew up in and in front of family and friends.
He almost gave them something to cheer about mid-way through the first half, but after making a great break and with the tryline beckoning he coughed up the ball.
Also nominated for the Ken Catchpole Medal which is awarded to the best and fairest player in the Shute Shield, the centre said winning the Rookie of the Year award was “the cherry on top” after the students’ secured the silverware for the first time since 2013 with a 45-12 over defending champions Warringah.
“It was awesome, especially first year of first grade,” McDonnell said.
“Playing with a bit of talent like Jake Gordon and Tolu (Latu) it was a good experience.”
The Eagles squad was named pretty well straight after.
“It’s been good travelling around the Country towns. The kids really enjoy having us come out and really get around it even though the results haven’t been that good but it’s been a good experience,” he said.
It has given him a taste of playing at a higher level.
The goal now is to “hopefully just keep playing good footy” and “maybe get a look in at the next level”.