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Saturday, September 3, 2022

Summer THOTS ... MLR 2022 Drama & Summer 7's Review

With summer 7's coming to a close, we thought we'd lay out some thoughts and observations of the 2022 spring and summer. 


To be honest, I lose focus on the MLR when the local grassroots rugby starts up in late March / early April. I find myself locked in for weeks 1-6, then fizzling out when the rest of the rugby calendar heats up. Major League Rugby will always have to compete for eyeballs during their season, but the playoffs and final will always be a tough time for the average American sports fan. With Bbqs, boats and beaches on the horizon, it seems like we start to lose focus when summer comes knocking.

In the end, the drama off the pitch was more than contentious ... it was downright salacious! When the Gilly teams were suspended from the playoffs (on the eve of the playoffs), the shockwaves rippled throughout the r/MLRugby chat. 

Can you imagine if something like this happened in the NFL ... on the eve of the playoffs?! There would be mayhem and physical revolt (sound familiar?) amongst the DQ'ed fan bases. But in the MLR, it seems like this will pave the way for future owners ... rock the boat, and get dumped without a life preserver.

The Gitinis raise the (RP) Shield

The Gil based teams no doubt dominated on the pitch in their two seasons (see above). Was it because they 'stretched' the cap? Who knows ... We just enjoyed the spectacle of it all 🍸

A couple of F-45 stock crashes later (we rode it all the way to the bottom 💎👐), and it appears the two teams will be sold. After all the ash and rubble settles (can you imagine the intensity of the MLR board meetings where they voted to expel the teams? would have loved to be a fly on the wall),  ... we may look back at the Gilly era of the MLR and wipe a small tear from our eyes knowing we actually (kinda' sorta') miss the drama of the early days.

In the end, RUNY (that's right, they're still United in our eyes) hoisted the trophy in their home away from home, Red Bull Arena. On the day of the final, Seattle lacked that energy drink mentality and the kiwi-owned franchise become the first Eastern Conference team to win the MLR Shield ... (with plenty of kiwi imports). Cheers to a fun & dramatic 2022 season 🍻... 


It's great that players (who aren't based in Chula Vista) are finally getting paid to play 7's. But is PR 7's best suited for the summer months? The club 7's circuit is packed into 3 months of the year. Why try and jam 3 tournaments in 5 weeks? Perhaps there's cost efficiencies for the start up rugby company to do this over a shorter time span ... maybe they wanted to scale and see if 3 events were even doable. The MLR season makes it hard to have any spring events ... but the fall season could be an alternative.

The reality of the situation is that there are no shortage of young rugby players with the hopes of becoming a 7's star. Most young players I know would line up for $1500 bucks over 3 weekends and fly from city to city to play in (kinda filled) stadiums ... all while growing their social media accounts via the highlights they make on that given weekend. PR 7's will never lack a player pool to choose from ... but can they grow a travelling fanbase?

The club 7's game has sharpened its sword. There are new clubs who are well backed, willing to search far and wide for recruitment, and the club 7's scene has begun to creep towards professionalism. That's not a bad thing either. I'm always for players getting compensated for their physical sacrifice. But similar to the inevitable split between college football and the NCAA ... club rugby was always headed this way.

Rugbytown 7's

The games run around the clock for 3 straight days, and there's no shortage of class players. Each year it's the who's who of elite 7's. Every 7's fan should try to one day make the pilgrimage to the mecca of tournaments. If you're worried about your kids being entertained ... well, they found the solution. An entire tent dedicated to video games.

10 years later, and it's safe to say it's a mainstay in the rugby calendar. 

The Ramblin' Jesters won their 2nd title, placing them in a 3 way tie for past tournaments winners (USA Falcons, Denver 7's Selects & Ramblin' Jesters have all won twice).

The tourney isn't the only thing that's grown ....

The size of the $10k check has too! (Literally)

Maybe 10 years later we could bump that winner's purse to $15k?!... any winning money at all is greatly appreciated in the rugby world 😁 so a big thx to Glendale's organizers who make this more than enjoyable each year.

I was lucky enough to find myself on the most exciting team of the weekend, the Tel Aviv Heat. The team finished 6th out of 20 total teams. The franchise is Israel's first professional rugby team and competes in the Rugby Europe Super Cup. Special thanks to one of the best young rugby coaches in North America Taylor Howden (who needed a bench boss in a pinch, ... sub cards can be challenging when your handwriting is almost illegible and you forget to bring a pen), TA Heat CEO Pete Sickle, and team investor / local rugby grassroots enthusiast Mike Holtzman for making the weekend so memorable with this great team. 


Friday, April 22, 2022

Denver Barbarians vs. American Raptors - A Local Darby


This Local Rivalry goes back to 2007 when the Glendale Stadium was Constructed

On Saturday, 4/23/22, the Denver Barbarians will play against the American Raptors. The teams have played on and off since 2007, and each time they square up against each other, the rugby fans of Denver Colorado benefit.

Since 2007, the competitions have morphed and shaped year to year (see below). The product always seemed to be elite level clubs on the cusp of professionalism. With the PRO Rugby formation (and quick disintegration) in 2016, everything changed. The two teams have not played consistently since 2016 and Saturday's game looks to change that.

Elite Cup (2012)

Professionals vs. Amateur Club
What dynamics go into each differing set up?
Advantages/disadvantages of being professional?
Advantages/disadvantages of being amateur club?

Importance of playing local Darbies
Building the level of competitive rugby in Denver
Growing the Denver rugby fan base. 
Iron Sharpens Iron

Players to Watch:

American Raptors:
Max Dacey
Seimou Smith
Line Latu
Kaleb Repp
Luke Mallette

Denver Barbarians:
Luca Tani
Mike Lawrensen
Eric Sykes
Conor O’Brien
Malik Bryant

Saturday - 4/23 

3:00pm - Denver Barbarians vs. American Raptors

5:00pm - Denver Barbarians vs. Denver Waterdogs

Infinity Park Turf 

1055 S Cherry Street


Sunday, March 20, 2022

Three Screens Are Better Than One - MLR Update

Over the past 6 weeks, we've been watching the games and keeping a temperature on the early part of the 2021 MLR season. On Saturday night, Bt and Tommy NoPiks sat down to take in 3 games at once (4 games if you count the 2nd half of the Cali Cup).

Much to the chagrin of our dear friend (the 2020 "Blogger of the Year" RPA winner) and seasoned rugby reporter Bryan Ray, the MLR decided to load up Saturday night's slate of games. While Bryan prefers the game schedule to be laid out over the course of an entire weekend, we strongly disagree... What could be better than 3 games on, all at once?!

We saw a great opportunity to binge some games and thanks to a generous TV donation by The Rugby Network, we built a triple screen masterpiece.

Final Scores and thoughts from a great Saturday night MLR binge (winners in bold):

Friday, February 4, 2022

MLR 2022 - The Year of the Player

 MLR 2022 - Year of the Player

(ft. Colton Strickler DNVR Rugby)

4 Themes and 'Motifs' for the upcoming season ...

1. Shift in Player Power - Monetizing Individual Brands

It's no secret that MLR Salary caps are low relative to its European counterparts. This will push players to try and maximize their potential income, on and off the pitch. We've already seen star caliber players bring their talents stateside to help build their brand. In 2022, expect just about every type of player (from aging star to young bucks taking the leap from college) to monetize their name image and likeness off the pitch. And why shouldn't they? Players make the ultimate sacrifice for everyone else to enjoy rugby ... their body. The truly successful MLR franchises will be the ones whose front office seeks to help their players grow off the pitch financially. If you can't pay the players much now in 2022, help set them up for financial success in the years to come. 

In summary, expect to see: Personal Brand Deals, NFT Offerings, Players Making Content 24/7

2. Follow the $ - Front Office Consolidation & Expansion

The capitalization table in the league will always be changing. Like an amoeba, the shifting of ownership percentages will be constant. Recently, Rugby ATL was sold and previous MLR owner now has a bigger piece of the league. As certain ownership groups continue to flex their checkbook and acquire bigger stakes, you can bet your ass that those ownership groups have greater say in the board meetings.

New expansion teams will always pay a higher cost to entry with every additional year the league gains momentum (and hopefully meaningful revenue). The cost for future teams (St. Louis & Chicago) will be greater than teams who joined in 2020. While they will always be partners (the collective ownership group as a whole), you can bet on some serious (metaphorical) arm wrestling at the quarterly meetings.

3. Rugby Media Industrial Complex becoming too SPECULATIVE

Love the fact that more and more people want to cover the league. The more the merrier ... however, with player and coaching jobs on the line, there really needs to be a threshold or structure to how people report on the game. There's a difference between journalism and content. Let's hope people aim to be right, not first to report. If someone has sources in the league, by all means work those sources. But if you're just chucking paint on a wall, and purely speculating ... well that's not fair to the parties your speculating about.

Counterpoint ... many bloggers have been peeved about the lack of transparency in the league. True, it's been a pain point for the MLR in the past, but they just launched the new transaction wire. Perhaps this small offering will give the Rugby Media Industrial Complex the little taste of information they need in order to not be constantly guessing and speculating. 

4. Deepest Teams Win Late in the Year

Championships are won in the offseason (front office putting together an elite team), pre season (players / coaches / front office gelling and forging bonds that will last through the season) & obviously in the post season ... where championships are (literally) won. The teams with the star power may come out strong, but it's the deepest teams that will rise up the ladder and make a run for the shield in June.

Special thanks to Colton Strickler for doing this years #MLR2022 preview.