Macdonald to live out North Queensland dream


TOWNSVILLE: It’s fitting Nene Macdonald’s, pictured, career kicked off with an extraordinary act of agility and it is equally apt that it will now continue at the North Queensland Cowboys, within driving distance of his Cairns-based family after seven years away from home.
The 23-year-old winger was signed when he was 15 in remarkable circumstances when current Cowboys recruitment manager Clint Zammit was working as a player agent.
“Nene was at Northern Pride under 16s training and I saw him jump clear over a four-or-five-foot agility pole. I signed him when I hadn’t even seen him play,” Zammit said.
“I knew straight away he was an athlete. Then I watched him in the training session and he had skill, balance and was six-foot-three.
“I took a punt on him, got him into a good system at Kirwan High [in Townsville] and a year later he was playing Australian Schoolboys.
“He has a wonderful family in Cairns. Nene joining the Cowboys is a good fit for him and a good fit for us.”
Macdonald was in the Titans system while attending Kirwan before Zammit got him a deal with the Sydney Roosters in 2012. He made his NRL debut two years later.
An NRL stint with the Titans was followed by two seasons at the St George Illawarra Dragons where his strong kick-returns and freakish finishing talents made the PNG international a regular in Paul McGregor’s side.
He was on contract for 2019 but a heart-to-heart with McGregor about his homesickness cleared the way for Macdonald to join the Cowboys on a three-year deal.
“Mary [McGregor] was really understanding,” Macdonald told
“He said ‘we’d love you to stay and don’t want you to go, but family always comes first’. They are the morals he lives by and I will forever be thankful to him for that.
“Then it all happened pretty fast. My ex-manager, Clint Zammit, is in Cowboys recruitment now and he knew I always dreamed of coming home, and said to let him know whenever I was ready.
“I was so close to all the boys at the Dragons so to make this move was the biggest decision I have made in a long while, but I hardly see my mum [Bessie] or my five older brothers and we are pretty close.
“To get the opportunity to come back and see them all the time was what I based the decision on.” –