Leon MacDonald opts to stay with Makos

LEON MACDONALD: The former All Black has reapplied for the Tasman coaching job.
LEON MACDONALD: The former All Black has reapplied for the Tasman coaching job.

Former All Blacks fullback Leon MacDonald has confirmed he is not a contender for the Crusaders backline coaching vacancy and is backing former team-mates Aaron Mauger or Tabai Matson for the job.

The 34-year-old Tasman Makos assistant coach said from Blenheim yesterday he had not applied for the Crusaders position, primarily for family reasons.

He said he was "definitely tempted" but "the timing wasn't right".

"I made my decision based around family, obviously, and also where I am in my coaching," he said.

Moving his family from Marlborough to Christchurch was a bridge too far for MacDonald, who has been part of the Makos' coaching setup for three seasons.

He and wife Hayley have four children, aged between 6 and 12.

"We've shifted around a fair bit," said MacDonald, whose older children went to "five schools in a couple of years - in Christchurch, then Japan, back to Christchurch, then Nelson and Blenheim".

"They are settled into a new school now."

MacDonald said Super Rugby was also "a pretty big commitment".

"I want to make sure when I do look at that level, that I'm ready. There's still plenty to do before I take that next step," MacDonald said.

He said "having now done both jobs", coaching was "even harder than playing".

"You spend more hours [preparing]. It's pretty time-consuming."

He loved his work at the Makos after he and head coach Kieran Keane steered Tasman to the the national championship semifinals with five-time premiership champions Canterbury among their scalps.

"I'm enjoying the coaching. I'm obviously from the Tasman region, so there's a bit of local passion there as well, which is what the ITM Cup is all about.

"It's nice to be back home with family and friends, too."

MacDonald, who played almost 100 games for the Crusaders and 56 tests for the All Blacks, said after deciding not to chase the Crusaders coaching job, he believed his former backline buddies, Mauger and Matson, had the skills for the job.

He had a lot of time for "Aaron, as a guy and a player" and was sure he was taking his knowledge into his coaching.

"And Tabs has done a fantastic job with Canterbury.

"I'm not sure who's applied [from outside the Crusaders region] but there's plenty of knowledge and talent there. Either of those two would do a good job for Toddy [Blackadder]."

Since retiring from rugby, MacDonald has turned to his summer sporting love - cricket. He represented Marlborough at Hawke Cup interprovincial level last season, 16 years after helping them win the symbol of minor association supremacy as a Marlborough Boys' College pupil.

"I'm not playing at the moment, I've just been having a bit of time off to spend time with the kids after the ITM Cup season. But if my shoulder hasn't seized up completely, I'll probably roll it over at some stage."

Playing cricket "scratches that competitiveness I miss from not playing rugby".

"But it's a time-consuming sport if you're playing rep stuff. All weekends are tied up and you're training through the week."