Witten by Joe Harvey Photos by Paris Malone
Heading into their clash with the Toronto Arrows this weekend, Old Glory DC’s Fintan Coleman expects a stern challenge from their Eastern Conference rivals.
This approach is validated after watching the Arrows’ Sam Malcolm pick up Player of the Week honors as he scored all of Toronto’s points in their 27-26 win over the Chicago Hounds.
Hosting the Canadians at Segra Field early this Saturday evening, both sides have a 1-2 record and will be looking at continuing to make strides in their division, especially against a close rival.
“Toronto have had a few injuries and then a massive win against Chicago last week, played very well, and Sam Malcolm was exceptional,” Coleman told MLR.
“So, definitely keeping an eye on him this weekend. I think it will be a really good test for both teams really.
“They have a very good line-out, and very good maul. To be honest with you. We are not exactly sure what they could throw at us because Sam Malcolm is there, and they have a few exceptional players in the backline as well. They could create anything from nothing, so we are just waiting to see what happens, really.”
A NEW DIRECTION FOR 2023
Under the guidance of new head coach, Josh Syms, Old Glory’s only win to date came on the season’s opening weekend as they breezed past Chicago Hounds.
Finishing at the foot of the Eastern Conference in 2022, it was a year to forget as the side finished with a 3-13 record, their maiden campaign win coming in their 10th game of the season.
Introducing Hawkes Bay’s Josh Syms as their new head coach, there is hope for new horizons for DC in 2023.
Keeping a significant chunk of last year’s squad, Coleman included, the former Ireland U18 international believes that a season ago’s hurt can motivate plenty in this Old Glory group.
“We didn’t want to forget about last year either,” he said. “You still wanted to remember the feelings of losing the games and not having the best season. You do kind of push past it as well, new season, new ideas, new players, new coaches. That is important as well.
“We have hung onto a lot of players from last year. As a team, with the record we had, we were a pretty close-knit bunch, and stuck together. Even though the results definitely weren’t going our way.
“I definitely feel like the results brought us closer as a team, and then just adding the few extra pieces that we needed this season that we are hoping can change the record for this season.”
A NEW FEEL
When asked, Coleman describes the decision to come back to Old Glory DC for a second season in MLR as “very easy”.
Qualifying as a domestic player thanks to a New York-born and raised father, Coleman learned the game in the country of his birth, Ireland.
A versatile forward, Coleman arrived in MLR a season ago after time in the Munster age groups and a short spell with English Premiership side, London Irish.
Already the back-row is impressed with what he has seen from his new head coach, who arrived in the USA with a much-heralded reputation for forming relationships with his players, which he spoke about with MLR last year.
At the time, the NPC Bunnings coach attributed that to his time as a teacher and beginning his coaching career in cricket instead of rugby, although his father had coached with the likes of All Blacks great, Graham Henry.
In a short space of time, Syms has had an impact on his new squad. Already having coached the likes of Danny Tusitala and Kurt Baker back in New Zealand, those pair in particular, knew what they were in for, but it is the wider squad most impressed by their new leader so far.
“Josh makes things a lot easier for us, in terms of just the language he uses and kind of integrating a new brand of rugby over here, and with a few New Zealand players over here, it does make it a bit easier,” Coleman said.
“It is just a different feel around the club this year compared to last. Last year, we didn’t exactly have the best of seasons, so there is just a better feel around the camp, even though we lost the two games. We are hoping to build against Toronto.
“It seems to be a kind of new environment and a new culture he is bringing in. New things, new ideas, new ways of playing. We’ve brought in a good few boys as well, which has added to the team massively.
“I can’t quite put my finger on it. It just seems to be a different feel. There is a lot more positivity around the team this year in how we are going about things.”
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