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The man who helped ID Damian McKenzie is heading to the Highlanders

Dave Dillon and Luke McGrath. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Dave Dillon, formerly the head coach of the Japanese company team the Kobelco Steelers, will join Clarke Dermody’s coaching team as the defence coach for a three-year term.


Dillon has been with Kobelco for the last five seasons and led them to a Japan League title in 2018 and they have been consistently competitive in the Japan league in recent times.

A robust flanker in his playing days for Thames Valley, Bay of Plenty and Waikato, Dillon’s coaching career began with the Sacred Heart First XV where he also coached the NZ Barbarians School team.

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In 2013 he was appointed the Chiefs talent identification manager ushering in players such as Damien McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown, Shaun Stevenson and Samisoni Taukei’aho. In 2015 he was appointed the assistant coach of Bay of Plenty before shifting to Japan to assist with Japanese company team NEC prior to landing the head coach role at Kobelco.

Highlanders head coach, Clarke Dermody, welcomes Dillon’s experience and what he will add to his coaching team.


“Dave has a decade of involvement with coaching at a high level under his belt, his experience in working with and developing players will add a vital ingredient to our coaching mix. He connects well with players and his coaching record demonstrates his ability to get the best out of them.”

For Dillon, it fulfils a long-term goal of coaching at the Super Rugby level.

“This has been a goal of mine, to return home to coach full time in Super Rugby, so I am incredibly grateful to the Highlander’s Club for making this happen. My family and I are really looking forward to relocating to Dunedin and immersing ourselves in the community, which we hear is very welcoming.


“The Highlanders are a team I have always enjoyed watching play and the opportunity to be involved in the coaching group is exciting, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Dillon has strong connections to players from the region with several former Highlanders including Ben Smith, Hayden Parker, Tom Franklin, and Richard Buckman have been coached by Dillon at Kobelco.

Dillon will start his role with the Highlanders later in the year.

– Highlanders Rugby


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