You are here
Old Glory DC, one of the two franchises set to fully join Major League Rugby in 2020, is holding a series of combines with the most recent being held in the Philadelphia area this past Sunday.
It was a chilly and breezy day, in the mid-30s when things started, in Conshohocken, outside of Philadelphia. However, the sun stayed out, and there were a lot of positive attitudes from both players and staff. About 40 players were led through warm-ups, some fitness, and then a progression of handling and passing drills with some decision making involved. Then there was a break followed by some more position-specific work.
After the combines, there will be a camp in May ahead of four matches against teams from Ireland, Scotland, and England. There is also a match against fellow expansion club New England Free Jacks scheduled for June 15. Questions about a venue for the team and head coaching announcement were met with, “Soon.”
The same core of people will be running all four combines so that there is consistency in how things are run and in the evaluation of the players. Tim Brown, the club’s Operations Manager, and Paul Sheehy, co-owner, were among the staff overseeing things. Leading the drills through the combines is former Eagle Toshi Palamo. Not present Sunday but doing a lot of the day-to-day management of the club is co-owner Chris Dunleavy.
The first combine was in Obetz, Ohio, just outside of Columbus. According to Brown, five to eight players were identified from that opening combine as possible invitees to the team’s camp. Overall, the Old Glory staff were upbeat and optimistic about things on the pitch and off. “D.C. is ready for a family-friendly, cost-effective option,” said Brown.
There has “Never been a better time to be a rugby player in the United States,” said Sheehy. Sheehy is keen to see players “coming up organically” through programs in the Mid-Atlantic.
Prior to Sunday, Old Glory had been relatively quiet regarding many things, including player signings. Last week, Josh Brown was the first announced signing, and on Monday, the club announced the signing of Will Vakalahi. While there have not been any notable overseas signings announced, Operations Manager Brown said that the club is in contact with many players and coaches in different countries.
There were different levels of experience and expectation from the participants. Most of the players at the Philadelphia-area combine appeared to be from men’s clubs, with a few college players sprinkled in. A group of players from Susquehanna University were unequivocally positive about their experience. For them, the experience of the combine was “awesome.”
Chris Wiggins, a veteran forward, said he wants to “live the dream while I can.” Wiggins plays for Wilmington and the Delaware Black Foxes and was capped for the USA Hawks in their loss to Jamaica in November.
One player who has been around the D.C. area for a while is Joanel Joseph who plays with the Potomac Exiles and the Beltway 7s. When asked about his expectation and goals for the combine, Joseph replied simply, “put myself out there.”
“I just want to play more high-level rugby,” said Selby Niumataiwalu, who played at Penn State and is now playing with Philadelphia-Whitemarsh.
The staff on Sunday were full of positives and free of anxiety. While there is a lot of work to do and many things still to be confirmed, the impression at the combine was one of optimistic calm that everything is moving in the right direction.