Interview by: Colton Strickler, MLR Correspondent: usmlr.com
What’s the biggest difference between rugby in America when you first became involved as compared to know?
“I’d say the younger players now that are coming through are more skilled and have a more knowledge and I.Q. of the game. I’m not sure if that’s a result of a larger player-base throughout the high school level if that’s growing or if it that’s through the success of the sevens game or even maybe some success in the level of coaching. I’m not too sure what it is. You can definitely see the level of younger players that are coming through. Especially at the MLR level where you get a lot of players that are just coming out of college, their level of rugby and their level of I.Q. is pretty high. That’s probably a pretty big indicator of the evolution of players are more players are playing.”
What do you see in the future?
“I think the MLR is obviously an amazing step in the right direction for growing the game and making the public aware of it. There is a lot of groups around that are doing a lot of work with the youth. A lot of organizations like Atavus that are working with youths and I think that’s where it’s at. You’ve got to get more parents knowing about it, more parent coaching it at a young level. In order for America to become massive, it starts at the bottom.”
What has it been like to be in New Orleans as the Gold establishes its foundation?
“This might sound kind of small and, I don’t know, maybe a little silly to some, but our clubhouse is located on a pretty busy intersection on the Westbank which is where we play. For a long, long time it was just a big yellow building that was next to a Shell station that looked like people weren’t even hanging out in it. Now we’ve painted it, we’ve got a big, massive billboard on the front, we’ve got our crest on the building itself, we’ve got our phone number and our website and out season ticket prices up there. There is literally cars at that red light all day, every day. There is never not traffic there. I think that’s something massive that was an easy fix, but something huge that’s helped us grow our fan base. We’ve picked up a lot of guys that are in our academy that were playing locally with our club side and training in an academy environment. They also are working with internships and on part-time with the NOLA Gold helping to sell tickets and getting the awareness out there. The fan base is growing and if we continue to win and continue playing the way that we are playing I assume it will just grow even more.”
Are you at all surprised by how hot your team has started the season?
“I’d say it’s not that surprising. I think with the amount of work that we put in throughout the preseason and the amount of work that the back room staff have put in throughout the offseason, you kind of marry those two together and the culture that we are breeding, if you throw it all in a pot it’s just going to come out good. I’m not really too surprised. We’ve got some unreal players. Tristan Blewett, he’s the MVP of the league. If you had to pick the best player, you’d pick Tristan Blewett. Even outside of him we’ve got guys that aren’t even making team rosters that should be. We‘ve got so much depth and so much talent and guys that work hard for each other that some guys aren’t making it. I’d say we are right where we should be at this point.”
How much has the experience of being in the MLR last season played into your team’s success this season?
“We’ve got a good core group that have come back. They kind of knew what was going on and how everything worked. Then you couple that with the guys that have come in from professional environments that understand what it takes and what needs to happen. I think that’s just a good mix. Then you’ve got a mixture of younger, maybe a bit more inexperienced guys that are coming through, those older blokes and those guys that have been there before help those fellas out. We’re really tight here. Everyone likes each other. You can see that we talk about getting around everyone when we score tries. You can see in the games when scoring scores a try or when the forwards win a scrum penalty, everyone gets pats on the back. Even one of the commentators said it one time. He said, “Just look at the way the NOLA boys get around each other.’ So that adds to the dynamic of the group as well when something good happens and all the boys come give you a pat on the back. It really gives you a bit of confidence and a wee boost.”
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