Since starting his first-class career in 2003, Donnelly has been a mainstay of the Otago and Highlanders forward packs and has a very promising All Blacks career.
He played for the Junior All Blacks in 2006 and 2007 and made his All Blacks debut in 2009 against Australia.
Donnelly made his debut for Otago in 2002 and became a regular member of the side in 2003, fulfilling early promise. His appearances in 2004 were restricted by injury, but he made a national mark in 2005 for both the Highlanders and Otago in tandem with All Blacks lock James Ryan.
In 2009 Donnelly was called into the All Blacks on the back of some impressive form for Otago during the Air New Zealand Cup.
He went on to play in the final match of the Investec Tri Nations against the Wallabies, and then featured in every match of the All Blacks end of year tour. Many would remark that Donnelly was one of the most well-rounded locks to play for the All Blacks on the test stage and followed that up with selection for the All Blacks again in 2010.
v Australia at Wellington 2009
2002 v Marlborough
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2004 v Chiefs
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• Scored his first Super Rugby try in 2006, against the Blues at Carisbrook.
• Scored his first try for Otago in 2005, against Southland during the Air New Zealand NPC.
• Was never selected for a New Zealand age-grade team but started at lock for the Possibles side in the 2005 All Blacks Trial.
• Represented Otago at the Under 21 and Under 19 levels.
• Played two matches in his debut season for the Highlanders in 2004, his only two first-class appearances of the year.
• Played for the Rotorua Boys’ High School First XV, captained by Highlanders teammate and 2006 All Black Craig Newby, that won the National Championship in 1998.
• He rates the draw against Otago Boys' High School in the Secondary Schools final in 1998 as one of his best moments in his career and lists World Cup-winning Australian captain John Eales as a player he respects the most.