Import takes a long way to North Otago
Oliver Feagin has never been one to back down from a challenge.
Whether it’s quitting a professional rugby team to play in New Zealand or ducking alongside his new teammates Maheno, the Los Angeles native is all in.
Feagin (22) arrived in New Zealand three weeks ago, seizing the opportunity to play for Maheno and push towards Heartland.
It was a long journey to get here. In March 2020, Feagin was due to arrive in New Zealand to play for Kirwee, Canterbury.
But with the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and the closure of New Zealand’s borders, his plans have changed. Earlier this year his visa was re-approved, 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 was like a once in a lifetime thing, and I was kind of in a good position to take it,’ Feagin said.
“Sometimes if you wait, you’re not able to make the move. ”
Feagin joined Maheno for the season, living with coach Chris Jennings, and has been loving the experience so far.
The team was ‘great’, very welcoming and very social — even taking him out for the first time shooting ducks.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but when I was there I was like ‘wow, I didn’t expect that’.
”It was different, it was great.”
The second five and center found New Zealand rugby to be fast and ‘off-the-cuff’, but it was a style he liked.
“It lets you express yourself as a player and that’s one of the things I’m looking forward to helping me grow.”
Feagin is no stranger to sports travel. After discovering rugby 7s by “flicking through” television channels at the age of 10, he was hooked, but never played until the age of 18.
He went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to study aerospace engineering and took up rugby alongside American football and wrestling which he was already playing.
Rugby became his sport and at age 20 he left Polytechnic to pursue it, moving to Canada and then to Atlanta, Georgia.
He moved to Pretoria, South Africa, as part of a rugby academy with Centurion Rugby Club for six months, before traveling to Naas, Ireland, to join the academy at Newbridge Rugby Club .
Earlier this year, Feagin signed as a development player for the Dallas Jackals, an American professional team, in the Western Conference of Major League Rugby competition. He left the Jackals to come to New Zealand.
Rugby appealed to Feagin because it gave him the freedom to express himself on the pitch. His goal is to be a professional rugby player, in one of the top leagues.
While in New Zealand, Feagin, who has a degree in coaching and sports psychology, works for the North Otago Rugby Union and helps run skills sessions at schools.