Physio joins the big leagues

Karl McDonald in the Sportsmed Southern Physiotherapy office. Photo: Hayden Williams

KARL McDonald turned down offers to be a physiotherapist for top rugby league teams the New Zealand Warriors and Manly Sea Eagles.

Now he’s secured a contract as lead physiotherapist for the Samoan national rugby team for the remainder of the year – and the best part is, he doesn’t have to leave town except to tour with the Samoans when they’re playing.

“I’m stoked to be able to stay in Invercargill but still work at this international level,” he said.

McDonald has previously been a physio for the Kiwis rugby league team, the Highlanders Super Rugby team and for the Southland Stags.

“One of the reasons Alama Ieremia [the Samoan coach] wanted me as the lead physiotherapist was my experience,” he said.

McDonald believed getting to know the Samoan players and gaining their trust would be the biggest challenge he would face.

“Their bodies are effectively their source of income, so they need to have complete faith in the medical team… The other main challenge will be adapting to and learning about Samoan culture. That I get to be in a different culture is something I’m excited about and looking forward to learning from.”

Physiotherapist Karl McDonald (left) with Kiwis five-eighth Kieran Foran, trainer Dayne Norton and halfback Shaun Johnston at the 2015 Anzac test in Brisbane. Photo: Supplied

McDonald trained to be a physiotherapist in Dunedin, where he lived for about 15 years. During that time he often commuted back to Invercargill, where he eventually got contracts as physio for the Stags.

A career highlight was working for the Kiwis, which gave him a goal “to work for a couple of years in NRL”.

However, he ultimately wanted to return to Southland permanently and live closer to his children, Jackson, 17, and Ruby, 13, so he turned down offers from the Warriors and Manly so he could stay in Invercargill, he said.

The new contract with Samoa will include five weeks away in June and July, but McDonald is most excited about travelling to the United Kingdom in November when Samoa is scheduled to play England and Scotland.

“It’ll be pretty exciting to walk the sidelines of Twickenham and Murrayfield – those places you saw on television when you got up in the middle of the night to watch the All Blacks play when you were a kid.”

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