When Nene Macdonald decided to try rugby league again, he looked up the man he shared a house with when he made his way into football with the Sydney Roosters.
Macdonald had taken a room in the home of then Roosters assistant coach Rohan Smith when he was a teenager with ambitions of a long NRL career.
His NRL debut came two weeks after his 20th birthday in a Roosters team including Sonny Bill Williams and Anthony Minichiello.
After 98 games and some frustrating recent seasons, Macdonald took a break from rugby league after a stint with the Cronulla Sharks.
His passion stirred earlier this season and he thought of Smith – the coach who was taking the Norths Devils to the minor premiership in the Intrust Super Cup.
Macdonald, 27, signed with the Devils and quickly hit top gear before his strong performance in the Devils’ qualifying final win over Tweed Seagulls. Last Sunday, Macdonald ran for more than 200m in the preliminary final win over Burleigh at Suncorp Stadium.
He is now preparing for Sunday’s grand final against Wynnum Manly Seagulls at Redcliffe’s Moreton Daily Stadium.
“It’s a bit surreal getting ready to play in a Queensland Cup grand final but I’m just grateful for the opportunity,” Macdonald said.
“I’ve known Ro (Smith) for a while so I gave him a call when I wanted to get back playing again. From the moment I came to Norths, I felt like I had been here for a long time.
“It’s such a welcoming club and Ro does such a good job of building a culture here where the team comes before any individual. I’m really looking forward to playing a grand final with these guys because it’s such a privilege to play alongside them.”
Macdonald is the youngest of six boys. He was born in Papua New Guinea before moving to Cairns with his family at age four.
At age 16, he moved to Townsville’s renowned rugby league school Kirwan State High when his speed and size began turning heads.
It wasn’t long until he was at the Roosters, rushing into a career that had him mentioned as a Maroons State of Origin contender. But a nasty ankle injury in 2019, when he was back in Townsville playing with the Cowboys, proved challenging.
“It’s been a tough couple of years at times but I feel as though I’ve learned a lot and I’m definitely a better person for it,” Macdonald said.
“I needed to get out of the NRL bubble and spend some time away and now I feel ready to go again.
“I know I can only get back to the NRL by playing well. My focus is on trying to do that each week and helping those around me.”
Macdonald attended today’s pre-grand final media conference at Moreton Daily Stadium with Smith and Devils captain Jack Ahearn.
Macdonald will start on the Devils’ left wing with prolific tryscorer Jon Reuben on Norths’ right side.
“There’s a lot of good people at this club and I can’t wait for Sunday,” Macdonald said.
PHOTO: NRL Images