CRUNCH: Wanderers lock Doug McKillop stops a Lake Macquarie forward in his tracks. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.WANDERERS coach Viv Paasi is thankful for the persuasive powers of breakawayBen Ham.
With Marcus Christensen opting to try his luck in Sydney at Parramatta, the Two Blues were left with a big hole in the second row.
Enter Doug McKillop. The 24-year-old, atalented schoolboy, who was a part of the the Southport School first XV which won the Brisbane GPS title in 2010, was entrenched in his home town of Scone.
He had a solid job as a fitter with a fabrication company and captained the Brumbies in the Central North competition.Ham had been in a similar position, living and working in Scone, before joining Wanderersin 2014.He won the Anderson Medal in his debut season and helped lead the Two Blues to a premiership.
“Doug is good mates with Hammy,” Paasi explained.
“Hammy had been in his ear about moving down here to have a crack at footy.
“Eventually Doug agreed to come down for a couple of training sessions.
“He had a good job and was comfortable in Scone, but hedecided tosacrifice that and start afresh here. He has been fantastic.”
McKillop has shed 10 kilograms from his imposing frame to sit at 125kg and has cemented a place in the Two Blues pack.
“Hammy gave me a ring last year,” McKillop said.“I thought about it for a while and decided it would be a good option.I am loving it.It hasbeen good to step the rugby up. In Scone it is typical country rugby. You just slog it out. Here there is more competition, the games are harder and faster, and you need to be fitter and stronger. You are playingwith 15 rugby players rather than throwing a team together on a Friday arvo.”
Like Christensen, McKillop canalso play in the back-row but,standing195cm, he has size over his predecessor.
“He is a tough, no-nonsense, old-school style footy player,” Paasi said.“He is starting to adjust to our style and is getting better and better every week. He has a real presence and gives us a good, hard edge.His ball carries are very good.He always gets over the advantageline and defensively no-one gets past him orthrough him.”
The addition of McKillop, who is sharing a house with Ham, and Welsh hooker Ryan Jackson have added bulk to the Two Bluesscrum which was destroyed by Hamilton in the grand final last year.
“There is a little bit more weight in the pack this year,” Paasi said.
“Come scrum time that helps, but you still have to be technically sound, which we are working hard at.”
McKillop played for Central North at the Country Championships in Port Macquarie last month and has aspirations of representing Newcastle.
“I’d like to have a crack at the rep team next year,” he said. “If I can make it down here it would make the move worthwhile.”