Landing the job of Fiji rugby coach is easy. Hanging on to it is the tricky part, as Kiwi John McKee explains to Chris Rattue.
Kiwi Sydneysider John McKee was the ninth coach in 20 years when appointed in 2014, the start of what is turning out to be a rare era of coaching stability and success for the Flying Fijians.
Wellington-raised McKee left a career in planning and construction when the chance to coach professionally arrived, finding a variety of roles in Australia, France, Ireland, Tonga and with the short-lived Pacific Islanders outfit.
High-profile Kiwi coaches are dominating world rugby but McKee operates in relative obscurity despite guiding Fiji to four consecutive Pacific Nations Cup triumphs and a world ranking of 10.
McKee will crank up the 2019 World Cup preparations when Fiji play Scotland, Uruguay and France in November.
The 61-year-old chats about his rugby journey, Fiji’s triumphs and travails, and the player he hopes will light up the World Cup.
What’s your New Zealand background?
I grew up in Wellington and went to St Bernard’s College in Lower Hutt. I played for the Wellington Rugby Club — it was very strong back then, with players like Murray Mexted, Brendon Gardiner, Dave Henderson.
Mexted and I were No 8 rivals — he taught me a few lessons there. I left New Zealand for Australia when I was 21 — no rhyme or reason, just a young guy looking for a change.
I only intended going for six to 12 months.
Did you rub shoulders with any famous rugby players in Aussie?
My first full-time coaching job was with (Sydney club) Eastwood in 1996.