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Player Of The Year: Jayson Potroz, New England Free Jacks

Written by Joe Harvey | Photos by Davey Wilson

When Jayson Potroz arrived at the New England Free Jacks, the playmaker had big shoes to fill.

Following the temporary departure of the 2022 MLR Player of the Year, Beaudein Waaka, to Japan, the 31-year-old brought bags of experience from his homeland, New Zealand.

Starting 16 games in the regular season, Potroz was the master of ceremonies as the Free Jacks lifted the MLR Shield for the first time in early July.

Collecting 151 points for his side, Potroz was very much at the heart of everything his team did well in 2023 and added his name to a list including Brad Tucker and Mike Te’o.

“Just very honored and privileged to receive the award,” Potroz said. “In the scene of things, it is a reflection on the Free Jacks playing group, coaches, and organization, of an amazing effort we made..

“It was pretty special to come away with the whole thing. It is just nice to be rewarded, I guess.”

When it comes to that togetherness on and off the field, it was apparent from day one that Scott Mathie and the rest of the coaching staff were on the right page.

Segmenting their squad into mini-teams to compete for prizes throughout the season, New England could mesh together their new arrivals and pre-existing playing group with relative ease.

This could no more be seen than in the docuseries “Proven,” which follows the team’s season.

“I think we just bought into what we were trying to accomplish,” Potroz said. “We sort of set small goals along the way, we didn’t get carries away by big picture things.

“Everyone just bought in, it was a safe place where everyone had a voice, and we just all connected well on and off the field.

“That’s the most important thing, connecting off the field, and the lads on-field performance. When you can trust your mates 100 percent, you get results when you have trust between all the boys.”

But while thoughts are on the next title tilt, there is always time for a look back to early July and the day New England wrote themselves into the history books.

“It was very nice to come away with the Shield,” Potroz said. “That game could have gone either way. We were lucky to come away with the win. San Diego could have easily tipped us, we were very lucky we came out on the right side.

“It was just awesome. You looked up in the stands before the game at all of our supporters that had traveled; it sort of hit home that you are not just playing for the group, you are playing for the wider community of Boston, of Quincy, all our supporters.

“It was nice to put a smile on their face at the end of the game, and they were so proud of us. That’s all you can ask for.

“We gave it our best shot and came away with a win. Seeing smiles on the supporters’ faces and what it meant to them was pretty cool to take in.”

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