Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Dawson Fatoric would regularly run along the Rideau Canal in his hometown Ottawa as a way to keep his fitness levels up while gyms were closed. But, it also served another purpose.
Along his route, Fatoric would often stop to gaze across at TD Place and visualize what it would be like to run out on that field with the Maple Leaf on his chest. Fast forward two years and the inside centre’s dream could become a reality.
Having received his first international 15s call-up, Fatoric is part of Kingsley Jones’ 30-man squad for this month’s Summer Fixtures, the second of which is at Ottawa’s TD Place on July 10. Click here to purchase tickets.
The 24-year-old comes from a family that’s rich in sports history. His grandmother was a competitive swimmer, while his parents were both competitive Olympic weightlifters at the national and international level. Despite starting out in football, Fatoric switched to rugby and made his way through the U14s before playing for Rugby Ontario’s U16s.
It was then that he noticed the benefits of his early exposure to weightlifting. He said: “We were taught the mechanics and fundamentals of weightlifting at a young age. It was only when I hit U16 rugby when the weights started to catch up to me. I was seeing the results of Lifting weights and what that can do in terms of explosiveness, running and tackling.
“Even though I wasn’t the biggest kid, I was still able to keep up with all of the big boys and I really credit that to my family and the weightlifting I did at a young age.”
Fatoric spent time with the Bytown Blues and Barrhaven Scottish as he made his way through the ranks in Ottawa. Eventually, at the start of 2021, he moved to Victoria, BC to join up with the Pacific Pride Academy with the goal of making a career for himself in rugby.
Since then, he’s been training with the program at the home of Rugby Canada in Langford, under the tutelage of Phil Mack, and was recently selected for the Canada West Selects squad which played at the inaugural Coast to Coast Cup in Halifax.
In their opening match against the Toronto Arrows Senior Academy, Fatoric had a starring role as the West Selects beat the Arrows 69-19. One particular onlooker was Canada’s Men’s 15s Head Coach Jones, and later that day Fatoric received the news he has been working towards.
“I was talking with my coach Phil Mack and he said that we would be speaking to Kingsley Jones,” he added. “Shortly after, I was added to the national 15s group on WhatsApp and they let us know before they posted it publicly. Finding out was a very big milestone in my career and I’m just super excited for this opportunity.”
Upon discovering he would receive his first international 15s callup, who did Fatoric call first?
“My mom and dad,” he replied, in an instant. “They were extremely proud and I’m really appreciative of my parents for being so supportive for me in my endeavors and me taking this leap to go and pursue my dreams. They’ve always been there to give me that backing all the way.”
He added: “It was a very emotional phone call. You always want to be able to share good news with your family but when it’s news like that, something you’ve been working towards for years and years and they’ve known that’s been my goal for a very long time, it was a super surreal moment.”
Fatoric’s targets over the course of the two Summer Fixtures are simple – form a strong bond with his teammates and make sure they know he is ready to give his all on and off the pitch.
“I really want to go in there and make my presence known and to show I’m serious about this and I’m a person they can rely on,” he said. “I’ll be showing that in training, whenever we play, if we’re in the gym or I’m on the pitch, it’s always go time, it’s always 100%.”
Fatoric earned his first cap in last Saturday’s match against Belgium at the Wanderers Grounds in Halifax, NS. It’s a moment he won’t forget in a hurry after Canada came away with a resounding 45-0 victory.
As the fixture against Spain drawers nearer, Fatoric’s family and friends are securing their seats for the match. Many of them haven’t seen him live in action since he played at club level in the U16s and U18s, making the prospect of having them in the stands on July 10 even more special.
“To be representing my country in my hometown just means the world.,” he affirmed. “To have my dad, mom, uncles, aunts, all my cousins and best friends that I grew up with and who have seen me along this journey – how dedicated and focused I’ve been – it’s worth its weight in gold.”