An eye on the opposition - Major League Rugby has kicked off

Discussion in 'North American Rugby League' started by adamkungl, Apr 24, 2018.

  1. adamkungl

    adamkungl Immortal

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    Started last weekend (Apr 22) with 7 teams in Houston, Austin, Glendale (Denver), New Orleans, San Diego, Seattle, Utah (Salt Lake City).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_League_Rugby

    Thought it might be interesting to keep an eye on how audiences/media respond, what works or fails, and what this all means for Rugby League.

    Would be great if this thread didn't descend into a Union v League total shitfest.
     
  2. deal.with.it

    deal.with.it Juniors

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    y


    No one could agree on the final score but the Gold definitely shocked the SaberCats as the US pro league began with a bang

    Tom Dart at Dyer Stadium, Houston

    @Tom_Dart
    Sun 22 Apr 2018 11.24 AEST

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    [​IMG]
    “It’s got to start somewhere,” said Tim Falcon, owner of the NOLA Gold.

    Somewhere was a no-frills Texas high school stadium by an elevated freeway and a depressed shopping mall, where a new American professional rugby union competition kicked off on Saturday.

    The previous attempt, PRO Rugby, had five teams and lasted a single season in 2016. Major League Rugby (MLR) has seven and is confident of sticking around. It began promisingly, with a dramatic upset as the Houston SaberCats lost to their opponents from New Orleans.
    Even on the opening day of an inaugural season, recent history makes it hard not to look backwards. Things will be different this time, Falcon said: better play, smarter economics, sustainable growth.

    “We are directly tied to the rugby community at the start. All our teams are very tied-in to local clubs. We’re tasked with building up a groundswell of young kids playing, bringing more kids into the game, so that’s big, but also the league office has done a great job with the broadcasting rights, the sponsorship rights.


    “We’re very confident that the casual sports fan’s going to see this game and love it.”

    All 30 matches are being televised and Saturday’s second fixture, the Denver-area Glendale Raptors’ 41-26 win over Austin Elite, was live on CBS Sports Network. On Sunday, the Seattle Seawolveshost the San Diego Legion; the other team, the Utah Warriors, have a bye. The ranks may be swelled next year by teams in New York, Dallas and Toronto.

    The season ends with the championship game on 7 July. The $350,000 salary cap limits MLR’s star power but the SaberCats have Osea Kolinisau, captain of the Fiji sevens team that won Olympic gold in 2016. He is arguably the league’s biggest name and was the scorer of its first-ever try, after 18 minutes on Saturday.

    You don’t do it for economic reasons, you do it for the love of the game

    Mike Loya, Houston majority owner
    Houston is likely to be one of MLR’s strongest markets, given its wealthy ownership group, status as the fourth-biggest US city, its large number of residents from established rugby nations and successful hosting of international fixtures. The USA meet Scotland at BBVA Compass Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo, on 16 June.

    For this occasion the 6,000-capacity Dyer Stadium was less than a third full, the attendance not helped by the unsettled weather and spartan facilities. The city has few available and suitable venues with grass pitches. Still, at $15 for a cushion and $50 for a portable seat, buttock-numbing metal benches are opportunity as well as curse.

    Despite the drizzle and the uncovered stands, the place was dry in one respect: as a school district venue, it is alcohol-free. Crisis averted, though: the club has secured pre- and post-match space for fans in a brewery next to the parking lot.

    A NOLA fan, Don Boyd, protected his head from the rain with a vintage Stetson. He drove from Gulf Breeze, Florida, to New Orleans, then flew to Houston. “I couldn’t miss this,” the 58-year-old said. “This is a very monumental occasion for New Orleans rugby.”

    It felt like less of a defining moment for the SaberCats, who had a 16-game preseason – partly in a rather more plush baseball stadium– and have construction getting under way on a 3,500-seat purpose-built home that is scheduled to be finished in time for next season.

    Mike Loya, president of an energy trading company, played rugby in El Paso, at Harvard and when he lived in London, where two other American investors in the team are based.

    “I went from ‘OK, I’ll invest a little bit’, to being the majority owner,” he said, standing by a concessions stand that seemed to be doing solid business. The team would have to shift a prodigious number of T-shirts to turn a profit, however, given that according to Loya the yearly investment is a seven-figure sum.

    [​IMG]
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    NOLA and Houston face off in the rain at Dyer Stadium. Photograph: Tom Dart
    “You don’t do it for economic reasons, you do it for the love of the game. You know what, I think it’ll catch on and I think it’ll be eventually a very good project, or a good investment. At the moment we’re just trying to have a place for professional rugby players to play here in the US, to give an excellent game, show skills at a much higher level and perhaps even motivate and maybe inspire the younger ones.

    “At the level we’re doing it in, it allows many of the team owners to think in the long run, maybe suffer initial losses during the start-up period but [one day get to] break-even, and eventually maybe make a profit.”

    Overall, this was a smooth start to MLR, with many fans engrossed by the action and only a few quibbles: salient among them, whether NOLA won by a score of 32-26 or 35-26, which was still a matter of uncertainty long after the final whistle. It probably does not help when the scoreboard only deals in quarters, not halves. MLR logged it as the nine-point win for the Gold.

    Lower down in importance were the imperfect pom-pom to cheerleader ratio and the growls emanating at quasi-random from the public address system that, however on-brand, sounded less like the terrifying battle roar of a sharp-fanged predator than the interference noise you get during phone conversations when your train goes into a tunnel.

    “We didn’t do ourselves justice today and that’s probably the most disappointing thing,” said the SaberCats head coach, Justin Fitzpatrick, a former Ireland prop.

    With only four regular-season home games and serious title ambitions, Houston’s pain at losing was palpable. NOLA’s joy was no less clear. And that, perhaps, was the most encouraging sign of all for the fledgling league. Already, on day one, it mattered.
     
  3. deal.with.it

    deal.with.it Juniors

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    - High school field
    - 2000 approx in attendance
    - slightly shambolic
    - they started something...
     
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  4. adamkungl

    adamkungl Immortal

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    I'd gladly take 'slightly shambolic' tbh
     
  5. gUt

    gUt Coach

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    it's probably paranoid to notice the word league in the comp name right?
     
  6. clarency

    clarency Juniors

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    It's traditionally the name of pro leagues in the USA.

    Part of the problem of using the world "League" as a sports name.
     
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  7. adamkungl

    adamkungl Immortal

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    Can't really blame them.
    If the thought even occurred to them to not step on our toes, I'm sure it was quickly laughed off
     
  8. Evil Homer

    Evil Homer Moderator Staff Member

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    Goooooo SaberCats!
     
  9. gUt

    gUt Coach

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    so our comp would be US Pro Major League Rugby League Bowl Dome Ball.
     
  10. adamkungl

    adamkungl Immortal

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    Should call it Super Rugby USA for a laugh.
     
  11. deal.with.it

    deal.with.it Juniors

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    To be fair NFL doesn’t call themselves major league.

    We could just call it NRL. People don’t need to know what it stands for.

    My partner is dutch and she knows AFL as “that game they keep fumbling the ball.” She doesn’t know what it stands for.
     
  12. deal.with.it

    deal.with.it Juniors

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    Seattle Seahawks sold out their match.

    Maybe 2-5k.
     
  13. titoelcolombiano

    titoelcolombiano Juniors

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    The name of our game is Rugby. The league part is the collective noun for our members (i.e. Australian RUGBY League - just like The Justice League, Cerebal Paulsy League etc). It could just as easily be called:

    Rugby Union
    Rugby Association
    Rugby Federation

    I know that we have adopted 'league' as part of the sport's name to differentiate it in modern times but it wasn't that way originally. Our sport is called Rugby because it is one of two forms of Rugby. We unfortunately been beaten to the punch (even though we held the first Rugby World Cup) because there is now a rival organisation that is a member of Sports Accord called World Rugby.
     
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  14. clarency

    clarency Juniors

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    If I recall correctly I believe Rugby League was called as such as the teams involved start a league to begin with. This opposed the existing Rugby (Union) clubs as they would play various invitational exhibition matches and had no real structure throughout the year (kind've like the mid/end of year international tests today). That was informally used for a long time and didn't start using the name League until post 1900.

    I think.

    Someone correct me here...
     
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  15. ReddFelon

    ReddFelon Juniors

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    Pretty much, followed in the foot steps of the English Football League when they split from the Football Association, initially the governing body called themselves the Northern Rugby Football Union, they saw the success the Football League had identifying as a separate competition and adopted a similar approach. Local communities used it to distinguish from the more dominant Rugby code leading to Rugby League, ironically it was also the RFL and their fans who coined Rugby Union as a distinct term.
     
  16. taste2taste

    taste2taste Juniors

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    Looks like both codes are racing each other to gain a foothold in the USA.

    League will have an international in Denver this year and the 2019 NRL season will launch with 2 games in the states.
    There is the 2025 world cup, the possible inclusion of a NY and/or Boston team to enter the lower ESL divisions and and a possible professional comp up and running in the USA by 2020.

    Union are staging South Africa V Wales this year in the USA, the English domestic comp will take a game there next season and there are reports super rugby is going to expand with the possibility of teams in north america. Major League Rugby has had a soft launch this season but in 2019 they are expanding with more teams and have a TV deal with CBS Sports.

    It will be interesting to see how the 2 codes go.
     
  17. Stallion

    Stallion Bench

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    Union has had a massive headstart with having the code played in universities etc.What the Toronto Wolfpack has done is nothing short of marvelous given the lack of establishment backing/presence for rugby league.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2018
  18. deluded pom?

    deluded pom? First Grade

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    Here's another example of what the sneaky bastards are up to.

     
  19. deal.with.it

    deal.with.it Juniors

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    I don’t get it?

     
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  20. deluded pom?

    deluded pom? First Grade

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    The USA rugby union are saying that Philadelphia Eagles have signed a rugby player in the draft. Mailata from Souths. Although technically Mailata is a rugby player to the average Yank who has a clue they’re being led to believe it’s a union player.
     
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