WRITTEN BY JOE HARVEY | PHOTO BY CAEAN COUTO
With the 2024 Major League Rugby season on the horizon, the Seattle Seawolves hope the 2024 campaign will see the Pacific Northwest team go even deeper into the playoffs.
Allen Clarke’s team was undone by eventual runners-up, San Diego Legion at the Western Conference Final. The Seawolves have spent the offseason reinforcing their squad to go even further in 2024.
This comes after continued growth under the team’s Director of Rugby, who has taken the side from a fifth-place Western Conference finish in 2021 to second.
“I suppose overall, it (the 2023 MLR season) was very successful from the Seawolves’ perspective,” Allen Clarke told MLR.
“It was the most games we have won in MLR in any season; we only lost four games, and a number of players went on to achieve international honors.
“Yet there is frustration because you are in the business of winning trophies.
“It was satisfying; we made progress, and we feel we have reinforced our foundations, and as a club, we are making progress.”
MORE FIREPOWER ON THE WAY
For a back line that already contained the talents of Dan Kriel, Tavite Lopeti, and Duncan Matthews, adding former Australia international Tevita Kuridrani is a move that will instill fear into opposition defenses.
Winning his last Wallabies cap in 2019, Kuridrani is a game-changing proposition in a backline that will now have Mack Mason and Sam Windsor contending for the starting fly-half spot.
Cameron Orr joins the pack after spending the 2023 Bunnings NPC with Wellington in New Zealand. USA international Chance Wenglewski has signed and experienced lock forward Huw Taylor.
These moves have created a sense of anticipation for the playing staff for 2024.
This can be said for hooker, Peter Malcolm, who has primarily seen these announcements from afar after being recalled to the Eagles squad following a dominant debut season with Seattle.
“I think we are all very excited about some of the moves that have been made,” Malcolm said. “Everyone is very pleased with where the team is going.
“This is professional sport. You are either getting better, or you are getting worse; I think all efforts remain to make us better this offseason, and we got close to the dance.”
“We are two games away from winning the shield, and that will always be the goal.”
Off the field, the Seawolves have been getting stronger, too.
This includes the addition of former Utah Warriors head coach Chris Latham to the backroom staff.
You then add to this the addition of players that will be key in 2024, and the Seawolves are on course to continue their progression again.
“Again, we want to improve,” Clarke said. “There is quite a change in our squad and some changes in our management team.
“If you have been looking at our recruitment, we have been aggressive, smart in the market and really identified players that we thought can play a brand of rugby that we feel will excite our supporters and our players, and ultimately compete for the championship at the backend.
“We want to be building through the season and getting to the knockouts.
“When you are in the knockouts, anything can happen.”
STARTING 2024 WITH A BANG
To begin the 2024 season, the Seawolves will be hosting San Diego.
Two teams that have had numerous memorable battles over the years, a new chapter will be written on March 3 as the California club makes the trip north.
For Malcolm, in particular, it is a game with added meaning, thanks to his three-year association with the team.
“That is always the one that is circled on my calendar,” Malcolm said.
“Because of my personal history and playing against a lot of my friends, and you always want to play well against your old club.
“It is going to be a good early measuring stick to see where we are at.”
Between now and the first whistle in three months, Clarke’s main responsibility will be getting his players on the same page.
Set to head to Washington early in the New Year, the rivalry between Seattle and San Diego is not lost on Clarke either and will set the tone for the campaign, which the Seawolves will hope to add a third star to their jersey.
“It’s exciting some of the players already,” Clarke said.
“It is a great time to play; it is a great start for everybody associated with MLR and rugby in the US.
“Seattle and San Diego have a rivalry, and no doubt it is going to be a fantastic, ding-dong game.”
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