He’s the bull-ridin’, hard-runnin’ “white islander” in the all-conquering Old Boys rugby team. Brandan Mangold is just 20, but he has been there and done that. Hayden Meikle tracks down the young Canadian front-rower for a yarn.
Q Where are you from, Brandan?
I’m from a small town called Caroline, which is about an hour and a-half outside Calgary, in Alberta.
Q How small?
There are 58 people in the town, and 512 in the whole county. I grew up on a ranch.
Q I hear you were a bit of a bull rider.
Yeah, I used to be into bull riding for a while. I went to a couple of competitions. There’s nothing like it in the world. Your adrenaline really gets going, you try to remember everything people have told you, and you just look up and say, ‘God help me.’ Just hold on for as long as you can.
Q Why did you stop bull riding?
I stopped a couple of years ago when I broke my back. My Mum just said, ‘Yeah, you’re done with that part of your life.’ I was just hit straight on by a bull. I was 17.
Q How was your recovery from that injury?
It was a big scare, at first. I fractured my vertebrae and the doctors said that, after surgery, my chances of walking weren’t great. But I had a good recovery. I was in bed for two weeks. Then I started crawling around. About two months later, I was trying out for rugby.
Q Pushing in a scrum must put some strain on your back. How do you cope with the physical demands of rugby?
I’m good, yeah. I got some cortisone shots when I was 18. After that, everything cleared up. Sometimes I get a tingling down my leg, and I can be a bit stiff after a game of rugby. But I do yoga every day and it just keeps everything nice and healthy.
Q When did you first play rugby?
I was 11. My mum lives in the city, so when I lived with her, I started playing rugby.
Q How have you ended up in Oamaru?
I put a note out on Facebook about getting ready to leave Canada to see what was out in the world. I know Dan Meikle, who comes from here, and I talked to him. He helped me get in touch with Old Boys.
Q How have you enjoyed the strong Pasifika culture at the club?
It’s great. I’m kind of used to it because my stepfather is Filipino. So I kind of feel at home here. The boys treat me like family. They call me the white islander.
Q Do you want to play for North Otago?
I’m showing up to training. We’ll see if I’ve got the skills to make the Heartland team.
Q What’s your long-term aim?
No idea, ha ha. I’m one of those guys that lives by the minute. I like to push doors open and see what happens.