Above: Will Mangos (right) supports Vaea Fifita, against Bay of Plenty in Rotorua recently. Photo by Dave Lintott Photography. More photos here
Rugged lock/flanker Wil Mangos missed much of Old Boys University’s successful club season owing to separate injuries and ailments, before showing storming late season form, including playing big roles in their 50-22 semi-final win over Tawa and 32-19 final win over Hutt Old Boys Marist.
“Unfortunately I missed a bunch of games during the club season. I played the first four rounds of the Swindale Shield, then I broke my nose and was out for a few weeks with that,” explained Mangos. “Then I came back and was out for another four weeks as I had my appendix out.”
After missing out on the initial 42-man Wellington Lions squad, named in the week leading up to the Jubilee Cup semi-finals, Mangos is now a Lion and has played three games so far in the NPC, against Bay of Plenty (won 31-19), Hawke’s Bay (won 40-27) and Tasman (lost 35-37).
“I came back again and we won the Jubilee Cup and I managed to do enough to get in the Lions and now I am trying to make the most of it,” he said.
His knock to his nose was just before he was due to join teammates Te Wehi Wright and Finnbarr Kerr-Newell in the New Zealand Universities for their short internal tour at the end of April, having played for the NZU last year.
When fit he added a steely edge to OBU’s play. Hardly anything got past Mangos when he was on patrol around the fringes.
Now he’s bringing that edge to the Lions squad, who are preparing for the biggest test of the season so far against the red-hot Canterbury side who (up until their Wednesday night game against Counties Manukau) had scored exactly 200 points in four clinical wins.
“Canterbury will be the big challenge of the year. We have been building pretty well, our performance against Tasman was not as good as we would have liked but we know what we need to do and I think we will execute that and put together a lot better game.
“Losing is one thing, but losing the way we did is not ideal.” Wellington conceded 26 unanswered points in half and hour following a try to Petone lock James Blackwell just after the break that put them up 28-13.
For Mangos, his debut off the bench against the Steamers in Rotorua was a sort of homecoming.
He attended Otumoetai College in Tauranga, not a rugby powerhouse school. He played volleyball at school as well as rugby and never played any age grade rugby.
He was also a wing before moving into the forwards and moving to Hamilton for five years.
“I played age grade and then Premier rugby for University in Hamilton. I moved from wing to flanker and then to lock for a while there.”
Now he’s mostly a blindside flanker. “I think that’s probably my most preferred position.”
Moving to Wellington at the start of the 2016, he linked up with the OBU Goats who were the then defending champions. He played for the Wellington Development side last year.
“Last year I wasn’t really aiming for the Lions, but it sort of became a possibility and I just missed out. So over this past summer, I made it my goal to get in better shape and put in better performances this year.”
He rates winning the Jubilee Cup last month and making the Lions as career highlights thus far.
Up until recently, Mangos worked a beekeeper. But at the moment it’s all rugby and after this season he will see what happens. Now is a busy time of the year for beekeepers, preparing the hives for the upcoming summer of honey.
He won the annual Mr OBU competition in 2016, so he is well versed with the birds and the bees.
For now though, he’s just loving being in the NPC environment. “It’s definitely a big step up, when it becomes your fulltime job and being able to devote a whole week to it is a change. They’re all a good bunch of guys.”
The Lions host Canterbury at Westpac Stadium this coming Sunday afternoon at 4.35pm.