FIVE QUESTIONS AHEAD OF MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY'S FIFTH SEASON
By: Colton Strickler
Saturday marks the beginning of Major League Rugby’s fifth season. If the last four years have been any indication of what’s to come in 2022, then we are surely in for a wild one. Here are a few things to keep your eyes on as you take in the 2022 season.
Will the Giltinis repeat?
We may be entering MLR’s fifth season, but there have only been three Championship Shields handed out to two different clubs. The first two seasons saw the Seattle Seawolves defeat the Glendale Raptors and the San Diego Legion. The third season fell victim to COVID-19 and was canceled after just five matches had been played. When MLR returned from their COVID hiatus in 2021, the new kids on the block – the Los Angeles Giltinis – took the league by storm to become just the second club to take home the shield. After getting a good look at the Kings out West in 2021, have teams loaded up with enough firepower to topple the reigning champs in 2022?
Who will lead the MLR in scoring?
A handful of MLR players have made their names dotting the ball down and putting the ball through the uprights since the league has been around. In the three full seasons that MLR has completed, no player has finished the season as the top try scorer or the top points scorer, twice. Sam Windsor – then of the Houston SaberCats and now of Rugby New York – led the MLR in points during the inaugural season with 103 and the Utah Warriors’ Tonata Lauti led the way with nine tries. Brock Staller of the Seattle Seawolves led all point scorers with a whopping 223, while John Ryberg of the Glendale Raptors and Dylan Fawsitt of Rugby United New York shared the try title with 13 a piece. Last season, Rugby United New York’s Dan Hollinshead lead the way with 111 points and D. T. H. van der Merwe of the LA Giltinis led all try scorers with 11. Will 2022 finally be the year we see a familiar face a top the scoring leaderboard?
Who takes Texas?
MLR has added at least one team to the competition every year, and this year the Dallas Jackals will make their debut. While the Jackals were originally supposed to join the league with the LA Giltinis ahead of the 2021 season, they made the decision to push their inaugural season to 2022. Their presence in the league means that there are now three teams battling it out for the Texas Cup. After a tough first two years in the competition, the Austin Gilgronis have taken the necessary steps to compete for an MLR Championship Shield and the Houston SaberCats have undergone a major shakeup ahead of 2022. Will the new kids on the block be able to surprise two of the original teams in the competition?
Will the Toronto Arrows contend?
No team had a tougher 2021 than the Toronto Arrows. COVID related travel restrictions made life hell for the league’s only Canadian team, and they had to set up shop for a year in Atlanta as a result. The fact that they were displaced for an entire season eventually effected their play, and they finished 5-11 after a red hot 4-1 start to the 2020 season that was ultimately canceled and a playoff appearance in their inaugural 2019 season. Things seems to be on track for the Arrows to operate as normal in 2022, so will that stability help them find their way back into contention?
Will Seattle bounce back?
The league’s only repeat champion didn’t have the best 2021 season. Not every season can end in a title, but their 1-4 start to the COVID-shortened 2020 season combined with the 11th place finish they secured in 2021, is far from the championship standard the Seawolves set over the course of the first two seasons. They’ve reloaded and seem to have gone all in as they set their sights on a third Championship Shield for their trophy case. The best fans in Major League Rugby have now seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and they are certainly ready for another title run. Will Seattle bounce back into the title conversation?
Banner image credit: Rosanne Leith