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Stuck out in Seattle with no other DI clubs nearby, they need a competitive season in order to advance to the national playoffs. Enter the NorCal DI, which agreed to add Beach to their schedule to give the Seattle team two home games and four away games.
“We’re excited that NorCal stepped up in this transition year,” said
Director of Rugby Evan Haigh. “And to have Golden Gate and Olympic Club
commit to traveling to us is great.”
(Note - after this was written Olympic Club forfeited their opening match of the NorCal league, and have apparently pulled out of their two games with OPSB.)
Now what? If Beach does even marginally well they should be in the playoffs, so the task is to keep the hunger there through a busy spring season that also includes the Elite Cup, and some games against Canadian opponents as well as BYU.
Haigh is likely going to coach the team for just a short period of time, as he transitions himself to running the Serevi 7s Olympic Development Program. He will be replaced by former Ulster and Ireland prop Justin Fitzpatrick, who most recently coached the Pakistan national team.
The good news for Fitzpatrick as that he will have a largely unchanged squad to work with. Mike Palefau has move to Seattle and will be with the team full-time, likely at fullback. Emosi Vucago and his big smile returns to scrumhalf, and he partners with Russell Armstrong. Isimeli Daveta, Fili Botitu, and Miles Craigwell are all expected back in the threequarter line. Craigwell, said Haigh, is poised to really break out as he finally got a full (ish) season of 15s under his belt.
Nick Hawkins, Mike Nelson, Nate Olsen all look to be back, too.
In the forwards Beach is also quite experienced. Fitzpatrick will enjoy whipping Oliver Kilifi, Dan Trieriweiler, Josh Osborne and the currently injured Vladi Mnatsakanov into shape in the front row.
The second row isn’t bad, either, with Aaron Fry and Will Haydock, both higher-level prospects, returning. And Matt Trouville, soon to be USA eligible, is back at No. 8, with Central Washington product Kellen Gordon and possibly Fry working with him.
All of these players were involved in the Super League in a major way last season, and they come back ready to play again. Rebottling last year’s magic might take a while, and there’s no sign of the steady hand of Alipate Tuilevuka, but they have talent and depth, not to mention speed.
OPSB opens their season against a very strong-looking SFGG team this weekend at Treasure Island. It’s an away game that SFGG, despite being swept 3-0 last year against Beach, should be favored in. But Beach is clearly back, and they could well be a shade better.