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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Details will be made available in the next few days. (File photo)
UPDATED: Community vaccine program to open in Golden

The clinic will be held from Saturday, May 8 until Sunday, May 16.

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton, the historians behind popular Facebook page Lost Kootenays, are set to release a book of the same name and have just unveiled its cover showing the ghostly Hotel in Slocan City shortly before its 1953 demolition. Photo courtesy of Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton.
Popular historical Facebook page Lost Kootenays set to release book

128-page hard copy documenting history of East and West Kootenays coming this fall

Al Kowalko shows off the province's first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Okanagan schools shifting gears to electric buses

Vernon, Central Okanagan, Rocky Mountain and Okanagan-Skaha on board

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Cops for Kids riders will be spinning 30 feet in the air on scissor lifts at SaveOn Foods locations in Kelowna, Lake Country and West Kelowna Saturday, May 8, 2021. (File photo)
Cops reach new heights for Okanagan kids

Nor-Val Rentals is doing the heavy lifting Saturday in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News file)
People aged 30+ in Summerland, Rutland offered vaccine amid high transmission risk

Interior Health offers residents of Rutland and Summerland aged 30 and up chance at vaccine

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

Lake Country firefighters assisted the RCMP on Kalamalka Lake Tuesday, May 4. (Fire Department file photo)
Okanagan RCMP interrupt houseboat break-in

Pair in their 30s arrested but no charges laid after alleged Kalamalka Lake incident

Most Read