Greatness in Glendale Rugby

by | Jan 2, 2018 | Club News

Fall Season Recap

The last twelve months have seen sensational growth and change for Glendale’s Infinity Park. For the city’s rugby clubs, it has also been yet another year for greatness in Glendale Rugby. With the forthcoming professional rugby league, Major League Rugby, Glendale’s amateur club teams spent the latter portion of 2017 flying under the new Glendale Merlins moniker for the first time. The Men’s Elite team, soon to be the professional Raptors, finished the year undefeated, as did the Under-20 team in its inaugural season. The Women’s Premier League Merlins team would also have finished its season unblemished, save a single-point loss in the league’s championship match – the team’s sixth straight year to reach the playoffs, with two national titles in tow. Glendale’s storied history of producing rugby competition at the highest level continues.

Glendale Merlins vs. New York Athletic Club

Photo by Seth McConnell

With the professional Glendale Raptors season set to begin in the spring 2018, the fall season for the Men’s Elite team was designed to provide continued competition for the players and coaches, as well as the opportunity for undecided or borderline players to demonstrate their desire for inclusion in the wider training squad in January. According to Glendale’s Director of Rugby, Mark Bullock, a number of players from various positions raised a hand to be included in the Major League Rugby training squad. Bullock also noted that the fall season provided the coaches additional time to continue the development of playing structures and team cohesion.

Growth of the Rugby Academy.

This year marked the first time Glendale’s rugby program has incorporated an Under-20 team as part of its programming. Designed specifically for players under twenty years of age that have graduated high school but attend a college or vocational school where rugby is not offered, the U20 program completes Glendale’s rugby pathway from kindergarten to the professional level. Director Bullock reflects on the inaugural season: “Being a new program we weren’t sure how the U20 team would do. The results exceeded our expectations.” Recruitment for the team was conducted nationally and across Colorado. All of Glendale’s U20 players have high school rugby experience, with some having previous involvement with the USA National development pathway.

With a quality pedigree, Bullock says that prior to the season’s start there was only one unanswered question: “Would the U20 Merlins be a team of champions, or a championship team?” As the team’s undefeated inaugural season drew to a close that question was answered soundly. Rounding out the significant successes of this year’s U20 program, three of its players have had the opportunity to also play with the professional Raptors team – a further demonstration of the effectiveness of the development pathway promoted through the Glendale Raptors Rugby Academy and the new U20 program.

Glendale Merlins vs. CU Boulder

Photo by Seth McConnell

Glendale Merlins vs. San Diego Surfers

Photo by Seth McConnell

The successes enjoyed in Glendale this Fall aren’t limited to the men’s programming, however. The Women’s Premier League team completed the regular season undefeated, and took second overall in the league’s championship title game, narrowly bested by New York Rugby. The WPL team, playing under the new Merlins moniker for the first time this season, has established over the years an exceptional level of excellence. In each of the past six years, the team has competed in the final four of the National WPL Championship, resulting in two national titles, three runner-ups, and a third place finish.

Rugby Built for the Future.

With the 2017 season in the books, the future of rugby in Glendale looks as bright as its past. The city’s robust rugby programming has seen significant changes this year, perhaps most notably in the emergence of the forthcoming professional league, but also in the establishment of the Under-20 team and the new Merlins name for amateur club and development-level teams. Director Bullock has high praise for the year’s achievements: “The results of these teams, along with our playoff finishes, are a testament to the commitment to excellence that is strived for here in Glendale. That’s part of the Glendale Rugby Football Club.” As autumn draws to a close, Glendale acknowledges and enjoys the victories of the season, just as it looks forward to the prosperity yet to come.