Whitianga rugby player, Angus Williams, is living the dream while rediscovering his Scottish roots.
Angus, 28, is contracted to Watsonian and also plays with Edinburgh full-time where he is making waves in his favoured position, tight-head prop.
As his first name suggests, Angus has a Scots lineage through his mother, who was born in the Scottish Lowlands town of Dumfries. His sporting career has taken him from outstanding Mercury Bay Area School student where his talent was first recognised, through the ranks to the Mercury Bay Rugby Club, Otago University, Hong Kong and now to Scotland where he plies his trade at a senior level in one of the top competitions in Europe.
Angus considers himself very fortunate to be able to pursue what he loves doing while getting paid for it as a professional rugby player. “Yeah, I suppose it is living the dream in a way, being able to do what you enjoy doing - and playing rugby is what I enjoy doing so, really, it has been very good,” he said.
While not limiting his ambitions of maybe going further to international honours, Angus modestly says he is putting his heart and soul into playing the best rugby he can, and he will take whatever opportunities come his way. “I am playing as well as I can for Edinburgh and we will see what happens from there,” he said. “Playing international rugby is the pinnacle of the sport and if I were able to play at that level, that would be pretty cool.”
Angus’ skill with the oval ball was first recognised when he started playing at MBAS, where teachers such as Mike Smith saw potential in his raw talent. “Guys like him have been hugely influential for my development as a player,” Angus says. “They gave me a lot of support and have been massive in enabling me to play rugby at different levels. I really can’t thank these people enough, the school, the Mercury Bay Rugby Club and other coaches as well. They have made me the player that I am and I’m thankful to them all.”
While at MBAS, Angus’ talent was spotted by St Paul’s Collegiate in Hamilton, renowned for its strong sports orientation, which gave him a rugby scholarship for his final year at school. Otherwise he would have completed his schooling at MBAS where he would have become a “Lifer” - a student who completed all their school days at the school.
From St Paul’s, Angus went to Otago University where he did a double degree in Sports and Exercise Science, and Human Nutrition. While the qualifications will stand him in good stead when he inevitably finishes as a player, he said that it was playing the game that really motivated him at university. “Rugby was my priority, I was focusing mainly on playing rugby when I was at Otago,” he said.
For a while Angus was on the fringes of the Otago Mitre 10 Cup team, making his debut in 2018, before finally being fully signed up the following year.
Angus, who played over 100 games for Otago University - an achievement by any standards - was also the recipient of quite a few banners for helping his team win the Premier Rugby Club Championship on several occasions. But over time he felt the need to do something a little different and in his last season with Otago his agent found him an opportunity in Scotland, where the semiprofessional Super Six Championship was in the process of being set up.
Edinburgh-based Watsonian were keen to sign Angus up, but it wasn’t until the middle of 2020 that he made his way to Scotland. Meantime, he spent around four months with Kowloon Rugby Club in Hong Kong, covering for injuries.
However, Angus’ arrival in Edinburgh coincided with the national COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, which meant that he could train under government restrictions, but not play as Watsonian were not considered professional by the Scottish Government, despite the players being paid.
Then Angus got his opportunity to move up a level to play with Edinburgh, who play in the vigorously-contested United Rugby Championship involving teams from Scotland, South Africa, Ireland, Wales and Italy, including such heavyweights as Leinster, the Bulls, the Sharks and the Ospreys.
“It is going really well with Edinburgh, I have been getting quite a bit of game time which is really enjoyable and I feel I am just developing as well,” Angus said. “Being a forward has been awesome because of the talent they have in those positions. It is just great to work alongside them.”
After being away for two and a half years, Angus is looking forward to getting home to his family in Whitianga when the season ends at the end of June. In the meantime, he has been getting better acquainted with the Scottish branch of his family, visiting his maternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, who live in various parts of the country.
Angus has also been taking the opportunity to explore Scotland, taking trips with his Scottish girlfriend, Toni, to the Isle of Skye and further north. COVID lockdowns prevented wider travel in Europe, but the couple did manage a holiday in Berlin last year.
For the future, Angus said he will do what he has always done - work hard and seize opportunities as they arrive. And when his playing days cease, he is hoping that his qualifications from Otago University plus his time at the rugby coalface will help him find work in the sporting arena. “Hopefully, it will be something around sport,” he said. “I am not too sure actually what I want to do after rugby, not just yet, but this time at Edinburgh is giving me the time to explore that as well.”
Pictured is former Mercury Bay Area School student, Angus Williams, is playing front row for Edinburgh in the United Rugby Championship in Europe.