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In 2012, Seattle-Old Puget Sound Beach was one of two favorites to win the Club 7s National Championship. The Beach Dogs were knocked out in the quarterfinal round. In 2013, they were the hands-down favorite to claim the title, and they did so in dominant fashion. This year, they’re perhaps even bigger favorites.
Seattle’s roster is full of capped 7s Eagles and All Americans, with others not even making the cut. They haven’t lost all summer, though their best competition might have been on the training ground and not in any of the tournaments they entered.
“We had an influx of players that’s allowed us to play two teams this year, which is brilliant because it’s more competition and also then drives the standard in training,” Seattle coach Ben Gollings said.
Competition for a spot on the 12-man roster for this weekend was fierce, with some very good players not making the cut.
“It was addressed early on. We knew it from the time that the Houston selections [for Elite City 7s] were made to every tournament weekly, it was addressed that there’s plenty of talent that’s not making our first side, and not even making the tournament,” said John Cullen, who’ll be on the team this weekend.
“I think guys had a general understanding you’re never guaranteed to just walk out to training, put your boots on, make a couple passes and you’re going to get selected. You’ve got to show up day in and day out, and whoever got it, got it.”
With expectations often come pressure, but Cullen says, if anything, that’s been a positive for the team.
“We genuinely have a level or a standard that we expect. And I say that in the most humble way, but at practice, if someone makes a mistake, or you drop a pass, or you run the wrong line, it’s noticed because it’s not something that’s accepted.
“And I think that just kind of breeds the culture that we’re here to have fun and do all that good stuff and do everything rugby’s about, but there’s a certain expectation of how things are supposed to go at trainings and how you’re supposed to present yourself in the game and everything. That culture was established way before I got here.”
If there’s one chink in Seattle’s armor, it’s that the same 12 guys haven’t played together very often this season. Every week, it seemed a new team picture with a trophy in it was posted to the team’s Facebook page, and every week it was a slightly different cast of characters surrounding said trophy.
“The key for us is we knew that right from the beginning, that it would be tough to do that because of people’s schedules,” said Gollings. “However, what we’ve done is we’ve worked combinations and this team’s trained quite a bit together, and so it’s a challenge that the way rugby is at the moment, you don’t always have that luxury of having that 12 train full time together. I think they’re in good stead.”