The fall rugby season is well underway in the Nation’s Capital and the Mid-Atlantic Region. As evidenced by the release of the Major League Rugby 2020 schedule and the teasing of ticket sales, the Old Glory front office and coaching staff have been working heads-down in anticipation of the club’s inaugural season.
Recent front office hires have shown impressive moves from ownership to lay the foundation of a first-class organization. Those hires include seasoned network television expert, Jimmy Cuddihy as Chief Revenue Officer; former Glasgow Warriors Rugby Operations Manager John Manson as Operations Manager; and senior sales and partnership professional, David Potamianos as Commercial Officer. On the coaching staff, the team welcomes back Andrew Douglas from the exhibition season, naming him head coach on a two-year contract.
The entire front office has been working non-stop in preparation for the inaugural season. Coach Douglas comments that, in the summer months following the exhibition season, his time has been spent evaluating his exhibition season squad and recruiting for various positions in and around the Mid-Atlantic Region and around the world. “The exhibition season exposed some talent for us in the local DC area,” said Douglas. “We saw some players like Josh Brown for example really shine through and it was good to see that depth of talent in the local area.”
Fresh off of the exhibition season, the team announced the signing of New Zealand-born tighthead prop Gordon Fullerton and local college talent, fly-half Mike Dabulas and flanker Jack McLean. Dabulas, lovingly referred to as Chicken by the local community, and McLean finished up their college careers at Penn State University this past semester. Following the new signings, the club welcomed back the following exhibition season players: Captain and 8-man Josh Brown, military veteran and wing Ryan Burroughs; prop Jack Iscaro (currently training with the Glasgow Warriors organization): wing Vetekina Malafu; and scrum-half Michael Reid.
Since the initial player announcements, Old Glory DC has announced the following player signings by the team: full-back Dylan Taikato-Simpson, flanker Travis Larsen, lock and blindside flanker Apisai Naikatini, flanker and eight Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz.
On the qualities Douglas and his coaching staff look for in potential players, Douglas maintained that “[players] have to be ready to play at a professional level. If not, they have to be not far away from it. We have players coming from college and they’re in for a big jump in terms of quality from of college rugby to professional rugby. We have guys playing in the World Cup currently.”
Coach Douglas’s recruitment has been nothing if not methodical. He mentions that while the first qualities he looks for in a player are ability and skill, the next are character and attitude. “We look for guys who want to work hard. We try to eliminate anyone who is going to take a lot of time away from the pitch because of ego management. We have several phone calls and discussions to assess a player before we sign them.”
Since the exhibition season, Douglas has signed 27 players to the 2020 squad and plans to have all players in Washington, DC for the official December 2nd practice start. “We’ve been talking to the players the whole time around their program and strength and conditioning,” Douglas reports. “We’ve been in planning mode in the last four months. It’s an exciting time seeing the Glory side come together for the first time.”
The Old Glory DC side is not the only squad on his mind. Douglas has watched most of the 2019 Rugby World Cup matches. With the quarterfinal matches right around the corner, Coach Douglas reflects on the United States and Canadian national teams, both of which have Major League Rugby players on their sides. “I’m keeping a close eye on [the Rugby World Cup],” Douglas notes. “I want Old Glory to play rugby that will not just entertain the crowd but the players as well. I want us to use the ball. I don’t want us to play to keep the score even. I want to play to win. I want us to risk a bit. If you don’t try and you don’t play, you don’t learn. We are certainly going to be trying and using the call a lot.”
Douglas hopes to bring the risk-and-reward style of play to Old Glory in 2020. “Our goal is growth. We need to see our game grow. In the preseason, we will be trying a few things and the crowd might have to expect to see us make a few mistakes, but the intention here is to push the boat out a bit with our game plan. If we are perfect, I’ll be worried.”
While the side has been mostly filled for the 2020 season, Andrew Douglas encourages collegiate and local talent in the area with dreams to one day be playing professional rugby to keep going. His advice? “Worker harder. Watch more rugby. Understand the game of rugby. Keep playing. I want to see players trying things and if they fail, learn from their failures and get better at it. Fear of failure kills progress. You’ll never know until you try. To be good at rugby, you have to work harder. Like anything in this world, if it’s easy it’s not worth it.”
Old Glory begins the 2020 season away on Saturday, February 8th against NOLA Gold. Old Glory DC’s home opener will take place on Sunday, February 16th against two-time MLR Champion, Seattle Seawolves. Make sure to stay up-to-date on all Old Glory DC happenings by following the team on social media and joining the email list here.