A passion for rugby and tensile steel toughness have taken a Nuuchahnulth man from the rugby fields in Victoria, British Columbia to playing professionally in Europe.
Phil Mack, 27, is a member of the Toquaht First Nation, which is located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Last month, he signed a professional short-term contract to play the position of scrum half for the Ospreys of Swansea, Wales.
The Ospreys play in RaboDirect Pro 12, which is home to many of the world’s best rugby clubs and top players. “This is the first time I have been looked at or been in search of a professional job,” said Mack from Wales. “I’m extremely excited that it turned out to be the Ospreys, given their caliber of play. It is a proud moment, and I’m going to work hard.”
Mack is one of three siblings and grew up in Victoria, British Columbia. His late father Sid was Nuuchahnulth, and his mother Janine is Lebanese. He started playing rugby at 16 while a student at Oak Bay High School in Victoria, where he was a stand-out scrum half. After graduating from high school, he played for the University of Victoria.
In four years with UVic, Mack played nationally and internationally for Canada. He’s been a member of Canada’s national team since 2007, and was part of a gold medal team in the Pan American Games in 2012.
“Phil was a very exciting player for us, he won us many games on individual effort,” said UVic head coach Doug Tate. “He’s a very talented offensive and defensive player. He plays at 100 miles per-hour and with a lot of passion.”
Other aboriginals have also played at a high level. Bob Ross is a former Canadian National rugby player who earned 58 caps for Canada, and was named captain twice. Rod Snow played the prop position and earned 62 caps for Canada from 1995 to 2007.
Rugby teaches intangible skills that transcend the game, Mack said. “It teaches you respect, commitment and how to work for what you want.”