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MacDonald eyes next step with Blues

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Sportal.co.nz     12 Jan 2013     Getty Images

MacDonald clearly needed more match time to push his chances even more than he had already been able to do when getting time with the Crusaders, and with his Tasman side in the ITM Cup.

Knowing that Mealamu was likely to be the first choice wasn't a deterrent either because it has been apparent that the hooking duo of Mealamu and Andrew Hore can't carry on forever and there is a need for their replacements to make their mark.

Dane Coles has the inside running but MacDonald wants to have his chance too.

Deciding to leave the Crusaders, and their vaunted reputation for developing players, had not been hard, he said. With John Kirwan and Graham Henry in the coaching line-up there wouldn't be too many better combinations in that role in the competition, he said.

The other attraction was the new bunch of players who had been assembled.

"I've played with a few of them, so it was a pretty easy decision to make," MacDonald said.

"I just want to get some exposure here and play well for the Blues. It is a massive opportunity here," he said.

Being able to learn from Mealamu was an obvious attraction, and he said the way Mealamu and Hore worked together to get the best out of themselves was an inspiration and a reminder of what competitiveness could achieve.

"They probably wouldn't be as good as they are without that competition," he said.

MacDonald sees his development coming with better work in his core roles, his ruck defence work and his ruck cleanout duties.

"Hopefully my attacking prowess can come into fruition with that," he said.

His ability in the loose, with ball in hand, had brought him into top-level focus and was the result of a style of game he had always played. It was his tighter game that was the work-on, he said.

It was a different culture with the Blues. The Crusaders' situation was well known with the number of All Blacks able to make a contribution being a big advantage. However, being part of a new, young side with the Blues was a different sort of challenge, and having been exposed to some of the Crusaders methods he was keen to have an input into his new side.

"I think it's going to be challenging but rewarding at the same time, especially if we can put some good results on the board," he said.

Kirwan thought MacDonald was home. "He feels like a Blues sort of guy. He's blended in really well and he can play."

Being a young squad, with Mealamu in front of him, there would be ups and downs during the campaign, Kirwan said but the competition between MacDonald and Parsons would be good for them.

As for Auckland, MacDonald said: "It's been pretty warm, the humidity's been getting to me. But I love Auckland so far."