A year ago, no one knew who Sam McNicol was, but this is a 20-year old with some serious heart among a lot of adversity.
You couldn’t blame McNicol for questioning his place in rugby after having to go through so many injuries, but the young winger has never given up and is now being rewarded with regular game time.
McNicol suffered a horror run of injuries during his first season of rugby, including a damaging eye socket injury which ruled him out of last years ITM Cup with Wellington. The youngster has recovered well, but still worries when the next injury will occur.
If I am to play this weekend it will be my sixth game in a row without an injury which is probably a record for me.
When given the starting role in 2016, McNicol hasn’t let the Chiefs selectors down and has scored in each of those games. During training, McNicol has been working hard on his catching, passing, and tackle abilities as he continues to grow as a professional rugby player.
McNicol does a lot of “injury prevention” work, especially in a bid to look after his hips. In 2015, McNicol had surgery on both his hips in a bid to continue his rugby career. McNicol makes sure he spends a lot of time with the team physio during the week, paying close attention to muscle strengthening before training and recovery after games.
McNicol made his Super Rugby debut for the Hurricanes in 2015. In fact, that clash was against the Chiefs, a side he now calls his own. Due to numerous injuries and lack of game time in the capital, McNicol signed with the Chiefs in conjunction with a provincial return to the Hawkes Bay.
McNicol is excited to play his old side once again but knows the importance of winning semi final rugby. Should the Chiefs win, they will play either the Highlanders or the Lions on the road in the final.
In games like this opportunities are limited so when we get the chance for points we have to capitalize and be consistent.
A big key to the Chiefs beating the Hurricanes at home will be forcing scrappy set piece so that the likes of Beauden Barrett and TJ Perenara cannot execute a good kicking game.
McNicol is in the running for another starting role on Saturday night, but he also knows that he has good competition for the right wing spot in the form of Toni Pulu, who himself has also had an impressive season.
Away from rugby, McNicol is a keen gamer and spends a lot of his time on his PlayStation.
I like to play NBA 2K and some Madden, not too many know Madden in New Zealand to be fair but the NBA games are well known here so there is a bit of banter in the flat about who is best.