As of just two weeks ago, Blake Mahovic, president of the Axemen Rugby Club in Squamish, thought his high-level playing days were over and that he’d be lacing up for the Axemen for the rest of his playing days—something he was perfectly content with.
But then an unexpected phone call flipped that on its head.
Mahovic got a call from the Toronto Wolfpack asking him to come try out for the team ahead of the North American Rugby League’s inaugural season in 2022.
Mahovic, who grew up in the heartland of the Rugby League variation of the sport in Northern England, had switched to playing Rugby Union rules while running the Axemen until his friend and president of the Whistler Wolves Rugby Club, Blake Stewart, convinced him to come play with them this year.
“Blake kind of twisted my arm about playing, and I actually had an amazing year playing there and then all the footage got sent over to [the Toronto Wolfpack] and they just called me up and asked if I’d be interested in coming over and playing a game,” said Mahovic. “I explained that I was teaching full time, but I would love the opportunity. And then a week later, here I am at the airport ready to jump on a flight.”
At 29 years old, Mahovic has been playing rugby for more than 20 years and has played his fair share of high-level rugby including with the B.C. All-Stars, the National University side in the U.K., a couple World Cup warm-up game appearances, and even some professional games with the Wigan Warriors in England.
This game with the Wolfpack, which took place on Saturday, Sept. 18, and resulted in a 42-6 routing of the DC Cavalry, marked Mahovic’s first big opportunity since before the pandemic began in early 2020.
However, despite not playing at a high calibre for a while, Mahovic wasn’t nervous, just excited about the opportunity he was presented and didn’t want to set too many expectations for himself.
“I’m going to try and go in and play the best game that I can and just take that opportunity to play at that level again and whatever comes of it, comes of it. If that’s a Canada jersey, then fantastic, and if it’s a [Wolfpack] contract, then that’s awesome too. But I’m just here for the experience right now and seeing where that leads,” he said.
“I’ll take it one decision at a time. I’m quite good at just focusing in on that one thing and right now I’m working on Grade 10 math and playing a rugby game on the weekend and then after that whatever is presented is when I’ll make those decisions, but I’m trying not to overthink everything.”
The main reason Mahovic isn’t putting too much pressure on himself about the results of his tryout is, in his eyes, whichever way it turns out, he already knows he’s going to be happy. Whether that’s getting to play for a professional team in a brand new league and to be a part of what he hopes will be the start of the sport he loves becoming more popular in Canada, or continuing to fill his days playing with his Axemen team in Squamish and teaching at Collingwood School in West Vancouver, Mahovic is just excited about where life has taken him so far.
“I’m teaching full time, so [making the team] would definitely be a bridge-when-I-come-to-it situation and just see if I can play an altered season and just play through my summer break or something. I love rugby, but it’s more of a hobby, and it pays as such. So it’s not something I would quit my career for, potentially, but something that’s nice to do as well as,” he said.
“I’m so lucky to have everything else I got going on in my life. I have a great job, I’ve got a great rugby team in Squamish, I live in a beautiful part of the world and have amazing people in my life. So this is just an added bonus and I think, [if it doesn’t work out], that I will be perfectly happy playing out the rest of my career in Squamish and just being around the rest of the people that are important to me.”