Few players lit up a game quite the way Wade McKinnon did when he was at his peak with the Vodafone Warriors.
He’ll always have a place in club folklore as a supreme competitor, an often-fiery fullback whose game was a fascinating fusion of fabulous skill, full-on commitment and a fair measure of feistiness.
McKinnon’s breath-taking 2007 campaign was among the most outstanding by a player across the Vodafone Warriors’ 25 seasons so far, highlighted by his remarkable solo try against Penrith which was the embodiment of all that made him such an irresistible force.
Now 38, he’s on another journey, one that had its genesis while he was at Parramatta before becoming Vodafone Warrior #132 in 2007.
Having spent the last five years with the Auckland International Airport Rescue Fire Service, he’s now training to become a career firefighter with Fire and Emergency New Zealand.
Vodafone Warriors TV travelled to the National Training Centre in Rotorua to meet McKinnon ahead of the club devoting this Friday night’s home game against Canberra to celebrating Everyday Heroes. It’s an annual opportunity to acknowledge and thank Fire and Emergency New Zealand, New Zealand Police, New Zealand Blood Service, St John New Zealand, Surf Life Saving New Zealand and the New Zealand Defence Force.
The same passion McKinnon had during his 153-game NRL career – plus 10 appearances for Hull FC in the English Super League – is just as evident when he talks about his post-football vocation. He loves what the job entails.
Rugby league and the Vodafone Warriors still feature large. On Friday night he’ll be at the ground with a group of fellow firefighter trainees and colleagues.
He also notes that he has played with or against most of his former club’s coaching staff. He played against head coach Stephen Kearney in the latter stages of his Melbourne career while he played with and against NRL assistant coaches Stacey Jones and Todd Payten as well as Canterbury Cup coach Nathan Cayless.