DUBAI // A year after his premature retirement from playing Jonny Macdonald is ready to start his second life in UAE rugby as a coach.
The Abu Dhabi-born scrum-half was forced to give up the game last year age 25 due to the effects of repeated concussions.
Now he is returning to the field in a teaching capacity, in a new role as coach of the Heartbeat Tigers women’s side, last year’s Dubai Rugby Sevens winners.
“Coaching is something I enjoy, but I don’t know how long I’ll last before wanting to pull the boots on and run back onto the pitch,” said Macdonald, the former Arabian Gulf scrum-half and Scotland sevens player.” Macdonald said he kept in contact with Shane Thornton, the Tigers founder, and “he helped me a great deal and I have a huge amount of respect for him.
“In terms of coaching the women, it seemed like a good starting point, having done some backs coaching with a team back in the UK.
“With the Tigers women, it was an opportunity for me to take up a head coach position and is a good steppingstone. They are a great team so I am very excited to get involved.”
Although he was brought up in Abu Dhabi, and had a recent stint living and playing in Hong Kong, he now lives in Dubai and joined the Tigers coaching team in the summer.
“Jonny has been doing a very good job,” said Thornton, who was the Gulf sevens coach when Macdonald was a key player in the side.
“Last season, in our first season as Tigers ladies, we struggled to scrape a team together some times, but we have been recruiting and now we have had 15 to 20 girls turning up to training, which is great.
“I approached Jonny to do the job when he first came over here. He can’t play any more, which is obviously bad for him, but it is a bonus for clubs that need good coaches.”
Tigers will be one of 13 teams in action when the women’s season gets under way tomorrow, with the opening round of the West Asia Sevens Series at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi.
Dubai Sharks will make the journey to the capital with three teams, having profited from an influx of players en masse from Dubai Wasps in the summer.
The players will be ready to get started by now. It is eight months since the last women’s season finished. Thornton thinks the late start to the season, three weeks after most senior men’s matches started, was a necessity because of the format the women’s matches are played in.
“Because these competitions are sevens, they probably can’t really be played much earlier because of the heat,” said the former Jebel Ali Dragons coach.
“Now there are about six tournaments until February or March, there are trips to Doha and Kuwait, so there is a fair bit of rugby to play.”
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