Archives for April 2016

Tulane Women Can Claim 1/2 of a USA Rugby National Championship

imageIn a bittersweet ending to an inspired season the Tulane University women’s rugby side conceded the USA Div II Rugby championship, kind of. After capturing the spring season championship by defeating Humboldt State University 39-32 in Davis, California on April 23rd, the Green Wave was to return to California two weeks later to play fall season champion Davenport University from Michigan. A second trip to California in two weeks was a bridge too far for Tulane.

Division I fall champion, University of Connecticut, were unable to travel to California for the May 7th championship match against the spring champion because of conflict with graduation. USA Rugby cancelled the women’s division I and II national championships; although, it is rumored that Davenport will have the opportunity to play Humboldt State on May 7th.

This is not the first time the championship has been cancelled. The current system with fall and spring seasons and separate champions has proven on other occasions to be untenable.

DeepSouthRugby.net has asked several questions about the split season championship and how it evolved and if it is under review. We have yet to received confirmation of receiving our questions, but we have been waiting several weeks for an answer.

Below is our interview with Jessica Mallindine, Tulane’s coach:

How did you become the Tulane coach?

Two years ago there was an email that went out to the womens rugby community asking for help coaching by Tulanes coach, Woneta Stallworth, who was a grad student at the time. I started going out to help intermittently the Spring of 2014. At the time they only had about 8 or so girls and were trying to set the ground-work for a functional club. By the time Fall came around, they recruited a very large incoming freshman group and Woneta asked if I would please help her as their assistant coach, primarily to help with backs-related skills and general support as they started to play in friendlies and tournaments. In Decembe of 2014 Woneta graduated and they asked me to take over as their head coach.

I have been working with Tulane for two years. I have never coached before, any sport. I am learning as I go and we have, to a large extent, grown up together in the sport.

When did you feel the team could win the spring championship?

I don’t think I or the team went into the Spring Championship thinking we could win. There were jokes about it at practice early in the season but I think it was generally felt that expecting us to go far in our first year as a competitive club was a little out-landish and unrealistic.Our original goal was to make it to Regionals. Once we achieved that goal every game became about playing our best game so that if we lost we knew that we had played to the best of our ability and could away proud of what we have accomplished. It just so happened that our best game kept winning matches. Even right up to the Final, we would get get together and talk about what they could do to improve themselves or what we wanted to tweak to see if we could get a little better at a specific aspect of the game. Never once did we talk about how we were going to win it and to some extent I think that really gave them room to step onto the field with no pressure. Their only concern was that they individually and, subsequently as a group, gave it everything they had.

What do you think of the idea that the spring season winner and fall season winners sort out their own play-off by the end of … July?

I think, in concept, it is a great idea. The issue arises when you are dealing with short turnarounds to raise money and travel as well as factoring in missed class time. Particularly, with the Spring Champions, they do not have any time to prepare following their Spring Championship win. There are only a couple weeks to book everything and raise the funds. Given how costly the tournament up until that point is, it really pushes the limit on what a club ca reasonably do. Of course the other issue is timing. Both DI and DII teams backed out this year because of graduation, which falls on the same weekend. This Championship schedule as currently laid out will most likely always conflict with finals and graduation.

 

4/13/16 Update: Mobile Area Rugby Foundation and Battleship Rugby

Rendition of the Brookley Field rugby complex

Artist’s rendition of future home of Battleship RFC released.

“It has been a lengthy process and everyone has worked diligently to get to this point.” From Robert Corley, Chairman, Mobile Area Rugby Foundation Coordinator,

To our teammates (new and old), friends, family and supporters, I hope this email finds you well in these early months of 2016. For some, the recent passing of friends and family members may darken the skies. Trust that you are never alone, and your Battleship family will be WITH YOU and your family at all times. Please allow me to offer condolences from my family and your Battleship Rugby family. While this can be a difficult time, there is much to celebrate around the Battleship community and still plenty of work left to be done.

Mid-last year, the administrators and club members of Mobile Area Rugby Foundation and Battleship Rugby Football Club began discussing the future of rugby in the Mobile area. The executive committees of both organizations explored the best pathways for growing rugby, at all levels, across southwest Alabama. A recommendation to consolidate the two entities was presented to both organizations’ constituents and approved at the Battleship Rugby AGM in August. As part of the reorganization, Mobile Area Rugby Foundation acquired new administrative duties, including rebranding all non-collegiate rugby in Mobile as Battleship Rugby. This will include Battleship’s U12 flag rugby league, the U19 7’s, and the senior men’s and women’s teams. This transition has not been without its opportunities and we realize updates have been lacking. Please trust this is merely a function of the admin hard at work growing rugby in all channels and know the flow of information will improve over the coming weeks and months.

I want to thank the current Battleship Men’s players, coaching staff and administrators for the grit they displayed in playing through this past season. The competition cycle started off promising but fell short of expectations. There is no lack of talent or determination in the current XV’s team, and we look to build upon the efforts displayed by our storied veterans and novice-players alike.

The 2015-2016 season also witnessed Mobile’s first women’s XV’s and 7’s sides taking the pitch. At the GRU meeting earlier this year, Battleship Women’s RFC was approved to enter the True South’s competition cycle for 2016-2017. This is a huge milestone, and the women have earned their accolades every step of the way. We will continue to grow the brand many of you have built and serviced through your hard work, sweat, and broken bones.

Roughly two years ago, Battleship Rugby’s home for nearly 20 years was condemned by the City of Mobile due to structural concerns with the lighting and the clubhouse. This came as a shock considering the close relationship we have all fostered with the Business Innovation Center and the City/County of Mobile.

After exploring a number of options, we determined that the best course of action would be to identify new strategic partners and a new home for Battleship Rugby. We have since agreed on Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley as the new location for rugby operations. Many of you have probably heard rumblings or mentions of this new arrangement. The limited information broadcast publicly is intentional, as we would like to hold off on publicizing our move to Brookley until we have established our presence within the Aeroplex. Over the weekend, the first of three shipping containers was delivered to the site, where it will be upcycled for storage and a viewing pavilion. I have attached a rendering of the final product we intend to call home for Battleship Rugby. There are some significant steps in phase 1 that will need to take place for all of us to recognize the fruits of our labor.

We have initially budgeted a sum of $10,000 to complete the construction of this site. That money has been earned, built and protected by all of you, for this purpose. I remember discussions in 2001 where Steering Committees and Old Boys envisioned a home of our own, aside from the BIC. I was invigorated by the long-term planning and had faith in the club administrators to take action that would allow Battleship to flourish and prosper for many years after my playing days. You guys have positioned us to make a bold move to ensure the program’s sustainability, but also to increase the visibility of rugby in Mobile. For that, I thank you. Without the members of Battleship Rugby, past and present, there would be no purpose to all of this and no history to preserve.

Some of you have been called upon to make connections, bridge gaps, or to provide services to help us create the new home for Battleship Rugby. A huge thank you goes out to you for your time and effort to help us preserve our legacy. In the coming weeks and months, many others of you may receive emails, calls or a knock on the door asking you to use your time, money or material to realize our goal of building a new, lasting home for our club. You all have done so much in the past forty years, a thank you is just not enough. The work we have done in the past twelve months to earn your trust and respect is just scratching the surface. Our aim is to reward your efforts with a facility deserving of the time you’ve spent away from families at fish fries, BBQs, and scraping aluminum.

Whether you are a current member, recent BOB, or a revered founder of this fine institution, please consider donating time, money or material to help us to complete the construction of our new home. You can donate to the facilities fund through paypal at Mobile Area Rugby Foundation Inc. If you can contribute time or material (dirt, grass seed, dozers, seeders, mowers, lighting equipment), please contact rcorley@mobilerugby.org so we can complete this facility for the Fall social cycle.

You should anticipate monthly updates on the progress of not only the facility, but our growing Men’s, Women’s, and Academy Programs. Currently, we are preparing to launch a touch rugby program, a highly-competitive Summer 7’s program, and defend our U12 flag rugby gold medal at the Alabama State Games. We will also be announcing this week a vacancy in the Men’s XV’s and 7’s Head Coach position for the 2016-2017 competition cycle. In addition, we will be deploying a Rookie Rugby P.E. curriculum for homeschoolers in early May. If you are interested in getting involved in any of these programs, please feel free to call or email me directly.

In closing, there are a number of great things on the horizon for Battleship Rugby. You all have paved the way for our current opportunities. For that, I thank you. We do have a lot of work to do over the next few weeks and months, and we could use your support to accomplish our vision. Please consider contributing in any manner. We have many needs and will be making additional program changes to ensure the viability of this club and organization. How will you help shape the future of Battleship Rugby? As a player on the 2001 National Championship team, I take great pride in the history and the future of this organization. As a player that began his career in the wake of Battleship’s 1992 National Championship, I have immense respect for those who paved the way. Help us realize the vision we have all talked about for nearly twenty years.

With you, Robert Corley

Source: BOB Old Boys List

4/09/16 Atlanta 7s Day 2: Prospecting for Gold

imageEngland showed Australia could be beat on day 1 in Atlanta, but for the rest of the tournament no one else could find a way. The USA fell to the Aussies 22-7 in their cup quarterfinal match. The Aussies then rolled over Canada 26-14 in their semi-final battle.
In the Final New Zealand clawed their way back from a half time deficit of 19-7 to end five points shy of Australia at 24-19 final score. Australia has now won all three of this season’s HSBC Women’s Sevens tournaments.

The USA’s coach, Richie Walker, is looking to make 5 changes to the squad before Canada. He is also looking forward to more time with the team. There is only one week before USA take the pitch in Vancouver (Langford),Canada. The final tournament of the series will be six weeks later in Clermont-Ferrand, France.

Several teams are still trying player combinations. Two Eagles who were not on the roster in Atlanta, Victoria Folayan and Kelly Griffin, should add speed, defensive skills, and experience to the squad. New Zealand left stars Kayla McAlister and Huriana Manuel at home while three Kiwis made their debut in Atlanta. The New Zealand coach, Sean Horan, seems to be holding his cards very close to his vest; although, he is consistent in his message that, “It is all about three days in August.” There are few, if any, who argue this.

Right now the Olympic medal contenders seem to be Australia, New Zealand, England, and Canada. England came storming back in Atlanta from the previous tournament in February in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where they lost matches to the USA, France, and Fiji. In Atlanta they beat Australia in pool play, lost to New Zealand by five points in the semi-final match, and then dominated Canada (26-14) to take third place in the tournament.

The USA is struggling to find the right combination of players with enough speed to beat the top 4. The recent appointment of Richie Walker as coach has not helped. Rumors abound about what happened with the coaching switch from Ric Suggitt to Jules McCoy to Walker over the last seven months. The situation reminds me of a school I worked where the director called an emergency faculty meeting for the end of the school day. At the very brief meeting the director announced, “These rumors have to stop.” That was it. Of course, the first thing that happened when we walked out of the meeting was everybody asked, “What are the rumors?”, and more rumors erupted.

One consistent theme through all rumors is Walker should have taken over directly from Suggitt, and this is not because McCoy was a bad coach. Walker was Suggitt’s assistant and knew the players and systems. McCoy’s surprise appointment less than a year before the Olympics introduced unnecessary complications. Somebody in charge of those decisions (Magleby?) needs to stand up and say, “We made a mistake. Sorry Dr. McCoy. Hope you can forgive us. Now let’s work together for some gold in Rio.”

4/08/16 – Atlanta 7s Day 1

The USA women started the 2016 Atlanta 7s tournament with a convincing 24-0 win over Spain. Three years ago at the Sevens World Cup the USA luckily squeaked by Spain for 3rd place. On a rainy evening in Moscow, as time ran out, Spain missed a conversion in front of the goal posts to send the match into overtime. Vanesha McGee scored the match winning try to give the USA third place. Much has changed in three years.

As the sun went down and a cold breeze chilled the bones of fans at the Atlanta 7s, the USA Eagles eclipsed 2013 World Cup champs New Zealand 12-5 on a fantastic try by Jessica Javelet. This put the Eagles at the top of Pool C. In the final match of the day Japan, who didn’t participate in the 2013 World Cup, defeated Spain 15-7 and sent the Spanish to the bottom of Pool C.

This year’s 7s series is part rugby and part chess match. Coaches have strategies to put their teams in the best position to win a medal in Rio. The victory over New Zealand on the face of it would seem to be a good indication of the USA’s ability to win gold, but to medal you need to be not just good, but also smart. Sean Horan, New Zealand’s coach, said, “We aim to win in August and that means trying new combinations and tactics over the next three tournaments, so that come Rio we’ve given ourselves every chance of winning.”

One tactic is to find the easiest way through the knock-out round. By beating New Zealand the USA will face the current number 1 team in the tournament series, Australia. New Zealand will face the weakest quarterfinal opponent, France. Did New Zealand intentionally lose the match. Probably not, but star player Portia Woodman did not play. Three previously uncapped players featured in the match against the USA.

Former assistant coach and now head USA coach Richie Walker has a daunting task ahead. Tomorrow, April 9th, his side has to show they are medal contenders by beating at least 2 of the best teams in the world on home soil with home crowd support; otherwise, confidence that they can do this in Rio in August will dwindle. There is definitely talent on the USA team, but today’s performance showed weaknesses in handling and whole match intensity. Although they easily defeated Japan 33-12, toward the later stages of the second half a small Japanese team began to dominate. USA Eagles with Coach WalkerTeams like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England and emerging sides like Fiji, France, and Russia will play the USA much closer, and in Rio the Eagles will pay for mistakes with gold, silver, & bronze.

4/2/16 Atlanta, New Coach, & 125 Days Until Olympics

On April 8th and 9th Atlanta hosts the middle leg of the five leg 2015-16 HSBC Women’s Rugby Sevens Series. The USA is currently in 8th place after the first two legs in Dubai and Brazil. The first two legs were played under the leadership of new coach, Jules McCoy. McCoy was recently released amid a flurry of rumors about conflicts with players. Similar rumors swirled around Ric Suggitt when he was released early from his coaching contract this past September. Richie Walker, an assistant coach under Suggitt, took over as coach a little over two weeks prior to the Atlanta tournament.

This year’s series is overshadowed by rugby’s upcoming inclusion in the Rio Olympics. New Zealand’s coach, Sen Horan, has openly said finishing in the top 3 in this year’s series is fine. This year is all about winning a medal in Rio.

For USA’s Coach Walker a top 3 finish in Atlanta is important. In Dubai (December, 2015) the Eagles finished 11th out of 12 teams losing to Fiji, Ireland, Japan, and Canada. In Brazil (February, 2016) the Eagles did much better finishing 3rd. In their 3rd place effort they beat Russia and England but lost twice to New Zealand and once to Australia. In the three matches they played against New Zealand and Australia the USA scored 1 try. The total points for and against in those 3 matches was 5 for and 97 against. The road to Olympic glory was full of potholes before Walker was handed the reigns of a team that doesn’t seem to be often pulling in the same direction. A top 3 finish on home soil will give a much needed confidence boost.

The Rio Olympic format will be similar to the women’s series with twelve teams competing in three pools. Eight teams will come out of the three pools to compete for medals. The first two teams in each pool plus the 2 best third place teams which will probably be decided by point margins. I recently saw an article on the Olympic seeding but have not been able to find the same information on the Olympic website. The article said that the seeding will be based on this year’s standing in the women’s series. The 1st, 6th, 7th, & 12th seeds in Pool A. The 2nd, 5th, 8th, & 11th seeds in Pool B. The 3rd, 4th, 9th, & 10th seeds in Pool C. Brazil as the host nation has claimed a spot in the tournament and is seeded 12th. If this information is correct, the USA is currently set to be in the same pool with New Zealand, Great Britain, and Ireland. A sixth or seventh place finish in the series would put the USA in Pool A with the relatively weak Brazilian side and a better chance to get into knock-out play for a medal. A strong finish in Atlanta will put the Eagles in a much better position to possibly control their Olympic destiny rather than chasing a form that will give them a long shot chance at even bronze.image