Glendale Coaches Corner

Glendale Merlins Rugby

Merlins Men’s Season Kicks Off with Many Exciting Changes

by | Dec 11, 2018 | Coaches Corner

As told by Head Coach Luke Gross

Coaches Blog, Glendale Rugby Date 11.6.18, Infinity Park’s NEW Turf Pitch

I am so excited to kick off training tonight for the D1 Men. This will be the first time that our men’s team will train on this new turf surface, which the City of Glendale installed this fall, and I know they will love it. Not only that, but we have a couple other new things in the works for our men’s program that I can’t wait to get everyone up to speed on.

Merlins Staff

Photo by Justin Purdy

First, we have a few new assistant coaches out here, whom, although they aren’t exactly new to our Glendale Rugby program, are being reintroduced to many as D1 coaching staff. Sarah Chobot, long-time captain and prop for the Glendale Women’s Premier League team, is stepping in as a forwards coach, working with these guys on the scrum. Kieran Browner, aka Ted, has recently stepped back from coaching and managing full time with the Glendale Raptors and will look for a part-time role as an assistant coach with the Merlins. We also have Dakota O’Neil who is also working with our men as strength and conditioning coach for this upcoming season. O’Neil worked with our WPL Team this fall and is proving to be a great asset for our club in terms of setting up fitness programs for our amateur players. Of course, we still have Mose Timoteo who is always a valuable resource for our teams in the back line and Joe Bradley, aka ‘Old School’ as a club manager off the field.

Another change that we are excited to announce is that our D1 program has been invited back to the Pacific Rugby Premiership league for 2019. Last year, when we moved into D1 competition, we chose the D1 Red River Conference, as it made a lot of sense to us. They welcomed us with open arms and our joining their conference fit both of our needs – we were adding a team to round out their season and they were allowing us some great competition in what would prove to be a transitional season for our club, as we were looking to field our first fully professional side in the MLR and a highly competitive D1 Team for the first time ever.

This year, however, the Red River has a full competition schedule with an addition of West Houston Rugby Club and now they can keep all their travel in Texas, saving their budgets quite a bit of money. In addition, with all of the Red River teams’ blessings, we have also confirmed a moved back to the PRP, making our budget stretch further as well. We are very excited about playing in the PRP. We know the physical challenges that lie ahead and feel very lucky and appreciate the support that the league has provided us.

Another change impacting this season actually happened near the end of last season and pertained to the structure of our Academy and DII sides. With the success of the MLR, we started evolving our way of thinking regarding our amateur teams. We are now looking to the Merlins Men’s side as a pathway to the highest level of play. With that said, we decided last summer that we were unable to commit to fielding our Men’s DII side and, in one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in this current role as Director of Amateur Rugby, we had to cut this team and send several amazing, long-time players to another club. We were devastated to lose a team that we had spent so many years with, but thankfully they will continue to play together nearby as the Denver Misfits and will hopefully continue to support the remaining teammates they played with here in Glendale.

Although I’m not really sure what to expect in way of numbers coming out for tonight’s first practice, we are sure there will be some familiar faces from last year’s D1 team and our restructured Raptors Academy. We also plan to see several new players who have moved into our area specifically for the chance to get a look from the professional team. Following a camp we hosted in early September, we have quite a few new cross-over athletes that are looking to give rugby a go. In addition, with this new evolved role of the DI side, we will also see many Raptors who need game time coming down to the team throughout the season.

My worry isn’t that we won’t have enough players; my challenge will be creating a ‘team.’ With our first matches just two months away, pulling in from all these various sources, I will be focused on getting this group of athletes to really buy into our program. The best teams are the ones that have developed this sense of camaraderie, both on the field and off. They need to have each other’s backs and that is hard to develop in a short amount of time between players who may not know each other. But that’s what I’m here for and I hope to start putting these building blocks in place tonight.

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Well this is our first night back after Thanksgiving and we will start to see even more numbers coming out to training now through December.

For the first few weeks of practice we have been very fitness and skill based. Come next week, we will start to work on our patterns of play and that’s where we’ll start to see this hard conditioning work pay off.

We have also recently released our schedule for the Pacific Rugby Premiership in 2019. Starting in late January, we will join Belmont Shore, OMBAC, Santa Monica, San Francisco Golden Gate and Life West in their second season of this current Division 1 competition. Our Merlins side replaced Olympic Club for the 2019 season and the PRP seems very excited to have us back. If you have followed our Glendale team for a while, you may remember that the Glendale Raptors were originally in the PRP and were instrumental in establishing the high standards of play throughout those early years.

Geno Mazza, the Director of Operations in the PRP, recently confirmed that they also have been in talks with the MLR about working together in developing a player pathway from elite club rugby to MLR play, similar to what Glendale Rugby is doing here with our Merlins. This is very exciting as it will not only serve to increase the playing standard of the PRP, but also the MLR squads and eventually the USA Eagles player pool, allowing us to send more tested players to play in international matches and tournaments, like the America’s Rugby Championships and the Rugby World Cup. He also plans on growing the league, seeing if they can add Utah and others to the mix.

We can’t wait to see what this season has in store and we hope to see all our Glendale Rugby fans cheering us on. The PRP has a lot of great teams stacked with talent and it should be a really exciting season with high-level competition throughout. Check out all the Merlins action in the schedule below!

Date | Opponent | Location | Time

  • January 26 | Santa Monica | Santa Monica, CA | TBD
  • February 2 | Belmont Shore | Long Beach, CA | TBD
  • February 16 | Life West | Vallejo, CA | 2pm MT
  • February 23 | San Francisco Golden Gate | Infinity Park Turf Field | 1pm MT
  • March 9 | Old Mission Beach | San Diego, CA | TBD
  • March 16 | Santa Monica | Infinity Park Turf Field | 3pm MT
  • March 23 | Belmont Shore | Infinity Park Turf Field | 1pm MT
  • March 30 | San Francisco Golden Gate | San Francisco, CA | TBD
  • April 13 | Life West | Infinity Park Turf Field | 3pm MT
  • April 27 | Old Mission Beach | Infinity Park Turf Field | 1pm MT
  • May 4 | PRP Finals | San Francisco, CA | TBD
  • May 18 | USA D1 Semifinals | TBD | TBD
  • June 1 | USA D1 Finals | TBD | TBD