Oliver Feagin has never been one to back down from a challenge.
Whether it is leaving a professional rugby team to play in New Zealand or duck-shooting alongside his new Maheno teammates, the Los Angeles native is all in.
Feagin (22) arrived in New Zealand three weeks ago, taking up the opportunity to play for Maheno and push towards Heartland selection.
It has been a long journey to get here. In March 2020, Feagin was due to arrive in New Zealand to play in Kirwee, Canterbury.
But as the Covid-19 pandemic spread, and the New Zealand borders closed, his plans changed. Earlier this year, his visa was reapproved, an agency put him in touch with North Otago Rugby, and Feagin said ‘‘let’s do this’’.
‘‘I just didn’t want to miss the opportunity. It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I was kind of in a good situation to take it,’’ Feagin said.
‘‘Sometimes if you wait you’re not in the situation to make the move.’’
Feagin joined Maheno for the season, living with coach Chris Jennings, and was loving the experience so far.
The team was ‘‘awesome’’, very welcoming and great socially — even taking him duck-shooting for the first time.
‘‘I didn’t know what to expect but when I was out there I was like ‘wow, didn’t expect this’.
‘‘That was different, it was awesome.’’
The second-five and centre found New Zealand rugby to be fast-paced and ‘‘off the cuff’’, but it was a style he enjoyed.
‘‘It allows you to express yourself as a player and that’s one of the things I’m really looking forward to as far as helping me grow.’’
Feagin is no stranger to travelling for the sport. After finding rugby sevens while ‘‘flicking through’’ television channels aged 10, he became hooked, but never played until age 18.
He went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to study aerospace engineering, and took up rugby alongside American football and wrestling that he was already playing.
Rugby became his sport and at age 20, he left the polytechnic to pursue it, moving to Canada, and then Atlanta, Georgia.
He moved to Pretoria, South Africa as part of a rugby academy with the Centurion Rugby Club for six months, before heading to Naas, Ireland, to be part of the Newbridge Rugby Club academy.
Earlier this year, Feagin signed as a development player for the Dallas Jackals, a professional team in America, in the western conference of the Major League Rugby competition. He left the Jackals to come to New Zealand.
Rugby appealed to Feagin as it gave him the freedom to express himself on the field. His goal is to be a professional rugby player, in one of the top leagues.
While in New Zealand, Feagin, who has a qualification in coaching and sports psychology, is working for the North Otago Rugby Union helping run skills sessions at schools.