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“We’re pumped up,” said captain Sean Cooney. “We have a pretty young team with a lot of recent college grads, and the guys are excited.”
The Griffins lost 24-5 to Glendale on March 3, but Cooney took it as a positive.
“We squandered a few opportunities against Glendale,” he said. “We ended up spending a lot more time defending than we should have.”
But at the same time, at halftime it was 5-5, and for most of the second half it was 0-0.
“There was just about a five-minute period when they scored three tries,” Cooney lamented. “We had a few breakdowns. We have some younger guys in the backs and we had some decision-making issues. But overall I think we took a lot of positives from the game.”
Missing four regular starters didn’t hurt. Of those, the most intriguing is 6-7 Graham Harriman, a talented lock who spent the last season at the Sharks Academy.
Also expected to start this weekend is No. 8 Viliami Fakatou, and flyhalf Roland Suniula.
Suniula is still working through an injury, but could well play this weekend. He replaces his brother, Andrew, who lined up at inside center for Chicago before getting a pro contract overseas.
Both brothers played for the Griffins in 7s over the summer.
“Roland was at Pearl City, as was I,” said Cooney. “He has a huge heart for Chicago. We miss having Drew around, but it’s great to have Roland with us.”
Also new or returning to the club are Craig Clark, a lock and BYU grad who showed well against the Raptors; Ryan Beecher, a center who has moved to Chicago from Peoria and decided to take up serious rugby again; and Tim Paulsen, who spent the fall at the Sale Jets in England and looks to line up at tighthead prop.
“He played 14 games for the Jets this past fall and came back yards better,” enthused Cooney.
Overall, then, it’s a somewhat new-look Griffins team that is younger in the backs, but will have Suniula keeping them steady, and solid up front. They certainly feel confident, and aren’t backing down at all from an opening match with the defending champions.