Round 14 QAFL Rising Star: Jon Macanawai

Eighteen-year-old University of Queensland on-baller Jonathan Macanawai is the round 14 QAFL Rising Star nominee.

Macanawai was a shining light for UQ in wet and dim conditions on Saturday, driving the ball forward for his team.

“I thought I played ok, it was definitely different to how we’d normally play in the dry,” Macanawai said.

“It was just about moving the ball forward, it was obviously a very wet day and that was the objective of the day.”

The persistent rain meant his contested work was crucial for the team but ultimately wasn’t enough to get UQ over the line.

“I believe we held our own last weekend and I’m happy for the boys and happy with the effort we all put in,” he said.

“We took a step on the weekend like we do every week and it’s all about improving from last week and the game before.

“I believe if we continue to play the way we played we’ll continue to improve and hopefully get more wins down the track.”

Macanawai was born in New Zealand, but lived there for only two months before the family moved to Samoa – his mother’s birth country.

Two years later they packed up again and relocated to Fiji.

At 12, Macanawai moved to Australia with his family so his father could continue his PhD studies, and this has opened many doors for the budding footballer.

“It’s a massive opportunity coming here, not just for sport but in other aspects and I’m very grateful to be in Australia,” he said.

Despite coming from rugby union heartlands, Aussie Rules has been number one for Macanawai since moving to Australia.

“I played a bit of rugby when I was young with it being the main sport of those countries, it was pretty much like a religion over there,” Macanawai joked.

“When I first came to Australia I played for my primary school team and that’s when I was first exposed to Australian Rules football.

“I wanted to play this game and I was very confident at it. I wanted to do my best and try to get as good as I possibly can.”

At only 18, Macanawai is one of the youngest players in the competition and has come up against opposition almost twice his age, but this doesn’t faze him.

“It’s sometimes very challenging to play against them but I’m always aware that they’re experienced and whenever I go out there I play with respect and I respect those around me.

“I just go out there and I play to the best of my ability and try to have as much fun as well.

“Another factor was just playing with my friends and having fun, I just wanted to be around my friends and enjoy my football and the comradery of it.”

On the phone, Macanawai’s modesty and gratitude shines through.

“My family and their ongoing support and love is what I credit most of my success on,” he said.

“It does mean a lot (the nomination), not just for me but for the club as well.

“The coaches and the playing group from the club have supported me with my development and I’m grateful for that.”

Like many Rising Star nominees, Macanawai has a desire to make it to the top.

“I definitely want to play AFL football, that’s definitely the long term goal. I want to take my game to the next level and I want to keep improving as a player.

“But for now I just want to compete at QAFL level to the best of my ability

“I don’t know if or when I’m going to play AFL football but I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing and that’s playing to the best of my ability with my teammates.”

By Josh Cheadle

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