Mack Hansen was rarely without a football in his hands. He was forever bouncing the ball, passing or chip kicking, which would become a signature play through his teens.
He has always been passionate about football – it didn’t matter whether he played rugby league or union. As a kid, he often played both on the same weekend.
Beginning his career with Uni Norths Owls, he stood out in ACT Junior Rugby Union before plying his trade with Daramarlan, the Gungahlin Eagles and the Brumbies.
By the time Mack started at Daramarlan College, he had chosen to focus on rugby. But he could have been forgiven for choosing league. His late grandfather, Kevin Hansen, played for the Western Suburbs Magpies from 1947 to 1953 and Eastern Suburbs in 1956. Kevin also represented NSW City, NSW and Australia.
Despite this pedigree, rugby union won out for Mack Hansen as he became a dominant player in the ACT junior competitions. He was always distinctive, playing in headgear at fly-half, with a strong semblance to the great Steve Larkham in more ways than one.
His ability to ghost through a defensive line was Larkhamesque.
After making the Australian under-20s side, it was deemed a formality that one of the best young juniors to come through the Canberra system would be picked up by the Brumbies.
From 2018 to 2021, Hansen played sporadically for the Brumbies. For most of the games, he came on from the bench, usually playing on the wing. Unfortunately for Mack, the Brumbies backline was littered with Wallabies.
He played 14 games for the Brumbies before he was offered a two-year deal with the Irish team, Connacht, coached by Andy Friend.
Mack’s mother, Di, was born in Cork, thus enabling Mack to take up an Irish passport. Now at Connacht, he is effectively regarded as a local player.
In five games for Connacht in the United Rugby Championship, he has lit up the competition, scoring four tries resulting in a call up to the Irish National team training squad.
It has become one of the most intriguing stories this year in Australian Rugby, aside from Quade Cooper and Semu Kerevi.
At 23 years of age, Mack has become a player in demand.
His two greatest supporters, dad Craig and mum Di, are watching on from afar.
“We could not be prouder of Mack,” says Di, “He took a chance moving across to the other side of the world to play more rugby. It’s early days but it seems to be paying off.”
The ultimate dilemma is, does he choose Ireland or Australia? He is eligible to play for either country. Ireland has made the first move prompting Australian Rugby to reach out.
The dilemma is interesting on many fronts. Mack struggled at times to get a look in at the Brumbies, but now, presented with an opportunity, he has thrived in Ireland. Australian Rugby is paying attention.
We have seen it happen before with Tyrel Lomax who started for the All Blacks in the weekend’s test against Italy.
Mack Hansen might be the next one to slip through Australian Rugby’s hands, or he could return to Australia as the complete package in a couple of years.
Knowing Mack as I have for many years, he would be taking it all in his stride, unaffected by the interest but loving his rugby.