For a long time, Damian McKenzie was simply one of the best players in Super Rugby, frequently in the top five of all the attacking stats for the Chiefs as a fullback.


In 2018, the Chiefs started making McKenzie’s transition to flyhalf at Super Rugby level after Aaron Cruden’s departure, back to the position he played as a New Zealand schoolboy representative.

McKenzie’s razzle-dazzle style of play was deemed too ‘high risk’ by many older purists of the game, who lambasted his mistakes and opportunistic instincts.

Video Spacer

Video Spacer
Isolation Nation Episode 7

In the first test against France in the June series, Damian McKenzie came off the bench in a whirlwind cameo performance, lighting up Eden Park with crazy numbers.


However, the performance only cemented the view by some that he should be used as an impact player.

Heading into the second test, an early injury to Beauden Barrett forced McKenzie to play nearly the full match at first-five eighth, giving fans the chance to see what he could offer.

Even though the All Blacks won 26-13, many were unconvinced as they had played against a 14-man French side when McKenzie arrived on the field.


Heading into the third test in Dunedin, close to McKenzie’s home town of Invercargill, the Chiefs playmaker was handed his first start in the 10 jersey even though there were other calls for Richie Mo’unga.

The older generation was about to be silenced by the 22-year-old Damian McKenzie.

The pocket rocket guided New Zealand to a mammoth 49-14 win as McKenzie scored two tries and set up two more in a virtuoso performance that illustrated the poise, accuracy, and decision-making to run the cutter for the All Blacks.

The performance tipped many off the fence into the ‘McKenzie at 10’ bucket, with one Boomer even retracting all previous negative statements made.

It was a defining moment in McKenzie’s short career but unfortunately, an ACL injury would cut short his 2019 season and rob fans of seeing one of the world’s best talents at the Rugby World Cup.

Mailing List

Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.

Sign Up Now