Victoria teenager Quinn Ngawati, who became the first Canadian-born player to appear for the Toronto Wolfpack, interacts with fans after their game against the Gloucestershire All Golds in Kingstone Press League 1 rugby action in Toronto on Saturday, July 8, 2017. Ngawati now wears the colours of Rugby United New York. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Neil Davidson

Young Canadian back Quinn Ngawati enjoying life in Major League Rugby

Former Wolfpack coach Paul Rowley called Ngawati a ‘rough diamond’

Just 21, Victoria’s Quinn Ngawati has already played professionally in both of rugby’s codes, worn the Maple Leaf, had a franchise fold under him and moved continents during a pandemic.

There has been no shortage of learnings along the way.

“It’s definitely been a whirlwind, I’d say. I’ve been able to be a part of a few amazing experiences,” Ngawati said. “And a lot of times it’s obviously not just what you learn on the field but everything you learn off of it.”

Ngawati, after making headlines in rugby league with the Toronto Wolfpack, is now back playing rugby union with Rugby United New York.

Union, the more popular version around the globe, offers 15- and seven-man versions of the game. Rugby league is the 13-man version of rugby.

“I love it,” Ngawati said of RUNY. “I’ve been pretty lucky throughout my short career to have been in some pretty incredible cities.”

Ngawati (pronounced Now-r-tee) will renew acquaintances with some fellow Canadians on Sunday when RUNY hosts the Toronto Arrows in Major League Rugby play. Ngawati knows a lot of the Arrows, from his days with Canada’s under-20 team and time with Rugby Canada’s Pacific Pride academy.

“I definitely spent a lot of time with those guys and consider them my close friends, for sure,” said Ngawati, who has been playing wing for RUNY.

While the pandemic has limited Ngawati’s appreciation of the Big Apple, he hopes to explore it more when pandemic restrictions lift. In a positive sign, a limited number of fans will be allowed at Sunday’s game at Cochrane Stadium in Jersey City, N.J.

RUNY (3-1-0) entered weekend play atop MLR’s Eastern Conference with 15 points, four points ahead of third-place Toronto, after defeating Old Glory DC 38-34 with Ngawati scoring a late try while Canada coach Kingsley Jones watched from the crowd.

Toronto (2-3-0) is coming off a record-breaking 52-7 win over the Seattle Seawolves. The 45-point victory margin erased the previous MLR record of 42 set by both the Seawolves (2019) and the now-defunct Glendale Raptors (2019).

Ngawati’s coaches have raved about the hard-running young Canadian in both rugby union and rugby league.

“He’s six foot four, yeah he’s 105 kgs (231 pounds) and he’s got great skills. I think this guy is one hell of a talent,” said former RUNY coach Greg McWilliams, who signed Ngawati last October before stepping down prior to the 2021 season.

Former Wolfpack coach Paul Rowley called Ngawati a “rough diamond.”

Ngawati’s father is from New Zealand with Maori roots — a background proudly illustrated via the tattoo on the back of Quinn’s calf. Ngawati Sr., played rugby league so Quinn grew up immersed in both union and league. His mother is Canadian, meeting her future husband in New Zealand.

Ngawati was one of three players to survive the initial round of Wolfpack tryouts. He was in class — possibly physics, he thinks — at St. Michaels University School in Victoria in the summer of 2017 when he got the call from the Wolfpack to come east. He graduated from high school June 19 — four days after turning 18 — and was on a plane June 21.

He made his debut off the bench a month later against Gloucester All Golds in a 62-10 Wolfpack win in England’s third-tier League 1. In doing so, Ngawati became the first Canadian-born player to play pro rugby league according to Canada Rugby League, the governing body of the sport in Canada.

He also played in Toronto’s next game.

In March 2018, he was loaned to the lower-tier London Skolars before being recalled to Toronto to play the final game of the second-tier Betfred Championship season.

Ngawati left Toronto at the end of the 2018 season, returning to rugby union — splitting time training with the Canadian sevens squad and the Pacific Pride in Langford, B.C.

He rejoined the rugby league side in March 2020, flying to England to play for League 1’s Rochdale Hornets while training with the Wolfpack full time.

But COVID-19 put a halt to that.

Arriving on a Thursday, he played for Rochdale on Sunday. And then sports stopped.

“I think the world — England, at least — shut down maybe the Tuesday or Wednesday after that,” Ngawati recalled.

With uncertainly over what lay ahead, he stayed in England. He was lucky enough to have some family in England, so he lived with them, training alone and trying to stay ready.

“I felt like I gained a lot of mental toughness,” he said. “In the past I’ve never had to deal with that type of adversity, training on my own and not having really a set time or place where you might be playing again. So I thought that I definitely learned a lot from that.”

The Wolfpack players had agreed to a reduced salary, so they were getting some pay. Ngawati said they felt luckier than most, given the circumstances.

The Wolfpack paycheques ended in June, although they were told they would get paid eventually. Ngawati says he has fond memories of the Wolfpack, despite its eventual collapse

“I’m always going to be grateful to the Wolfpack … It’s probably the tightest-knit group of guys that I’ve been with. But at the end of the day it is a business.”

He came back to Canada in August after the Wolfpack stood down, unable to finance the rest of the season. Last November, he was part of Canada’s high-performance 15s camp.

Ngawati has already played for the Maple Leafs, Canada’s developmental sevens side, as well as Canada’s under-20 15s team.

As for a return to rugby league, Ngawati says he is keeping his options open.

“I especially feel there might be a little chip on my shoulder not being able to fulfil the goal of playing a Super League game,” he said. “So that’s always going to be kind of leaving things half-done. And that’s one thing that I would definitely like to try and fulfil by the end of my career.”

At the Wolfpack, Ngawati got to meet former All Black Sonny Bill Williams, someone he watched growing up and had looked up to and based his game on.

“A lot of times people say never meet your heroes or your idols. But for me, it was the complete opposite because he was exactly what he’s made out to be,” Ngawati said.

At RUNY, he is rubbing shoulders with former England back Ben Foden and All Blacks scrum half Andy Ellis.

—-

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

rugby

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is asking Albertans to do their part by observing gathering limits, staying home if unwell, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three new Central zone COVID-19 deaths, Alberta adds 1,433 cases

Red Deer down to 802 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta’a chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday that there are more than 328,000 vaccine appointments booked over the next seven days. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta surpasses 2 million doses administered of COVID-19 vaccine

Red Deer down to 835 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.
‘We did not unite around blind loyalty to one man’:Kenney faces internal call to quit

Senior backbench member Todd Loewen, in a letter posted on Facebook, called on Kenney to resign

Alberta continues to wrestle with high COVID-19 case numbers. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer up to 858 active cases of COVID-19

Province reports additional 1,799 cases of the virus

Town of Sylvan Lake. File Photo
Sylvan Lake residents affected by Boil Water Advisory to be compensated

Sylvan Lake Town Council says the roughly 3,700 residents affected last month will be compensated

Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via video conference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The committee is looking into Government Spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity, watchdog says

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that former finance minister Bill Morneau did violate the rules

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
Alberta RCMP investigating possible threat to police after Mirror rally

Online images show RCMP members, vehicles in crosshairs of a rifle

An Israeli attack helicopter launches flares as he flies over the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Singh calls for halt on Canadian arms sales to Israel as violence escalates in region

Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019

New homes are built in a housing construction development in the west-end of Ottawa on Thursday, May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Budget’s foreign-homebuyers tax could bring in $509 million over 4 years, PBO says

Liberals are proposing a one per cent tax on vacant homes owned by foreign non-residents

A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier’s shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The Canadian Forces says it has charged one of its members in the death of an army reservist from British Columbia during a training exercise at a military base in Alberta last year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg
Canadian Forces member charged in death of army reservist during training exercise

Cpl. Lars Callsen has been charged with one count of negligence

A youth plays basketball in an otherwise quiet court in Toronto on Saturday April 17, 2021. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is urging the federal and provincial governments to fight COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on proven public health policy interventions including paid sick leave, and education rather than punitive enforcement measures. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Provinces issued more COVID-19 tickets during 2nd wave: CCLA report

‘A pandemic is a public health, not a public order, crisis,’ reads the report

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Trudeau is rejecting accusations from Alberta’s justice minister that his federal government is part of a trio rooting for that province’s health system to collapse due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Alberta justice minister sorry for saying feds, others rooting for COVID disaster

Earlier Tuesday, prior to Madu’s apology, Trudeau rejected the accusations

Most Read