During its first season as a Major League Rugby team, the Seattle Seawolves won the national championship title.
The Seawolves were formed in 2017 and held its first league play in 2018 with players of different ages, skills and from all over.
The 2019 season kicks off this month with a home opener Sunday, Jan. 27 against the Glendale Raptors at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila.
According to Alicia Richardson, marketing director for the Seawolves, the team is looking good this year.
“What’s really wonderful is we’ve had a lot of sign ons who are new, which is bringing some new talent, but we’ve also kept a lot of the core of our team from last season. So I think it’s going to be really great, but it’s going to be great for fans to get to see the team play with a little bit different vibe this year,” Richardson said in a phone interview.
She said they are still finalizing some things for the new players, but so far they have announced five new players.
As far as finalizing things go, the team is also having some difficulty getting their new coach over to the United States.
Phil Mack, the assistant coach and scrum half, said last year they went the entire season without a head coach, but this year they hired Anton Moolman.
Mack said Moolman is from South Africa and is having issues getting his Visa sorted out in order to come over to the United States.
While it may be difficult to get him here, Mack said the wait will be well worth it as Moolman has a lot of experience coaching rugby.
“He’s got a pretty deep resume. He’s run the Western Province Academy in Cape Town, South Africa, which is pretty high a caliber program. I just think his experience is going to be huge for us,” Mack said.
According to America’s Rugby News, Moolman is a seasoned rugby player who has coached multiple teams in South Africa and is well known in the rugby community over there.
To keep Moolman updated while he waits to come over, Mack said he has been having daily conversations and sending him game footage.
The goal is to have Moolman lead the team to success and have a repeat championship win like last season.
But, without him here, Mack has stepped up for the time being.
“This season is a little bit familiar from last season. Right now they are practicing without a coach so Phil Mack is really stepping up to the plate once again and they’re making it work for now and then we’ll see what happens before the season. The players are putting in a lot of extra time and making sure that they’re ready to go. We’ve got some great preseason games as well,” Richardson said.
Mack said he and the team have been putting a lot of work into their preseason prep and said the team is just excited to get the ball rolling and start the season.
At the moment, the Seawolves have played two scrimmage games, both of which they have won.
The first game they played was in Canada and they won 49-5 and the second game was in California —that game was a shutout with a final score of 45-0 in favor of the Seawolves.
Humble as ever, Mack said even though the team won the championship last year, and won their preseason games, he said the players have to watch their egos and step up their game from last year.
“I think anytime you win something the following year it’s probably a bit more difficult to do it, just given the teams are going to be circling their calendars. I think it’s a matter of managing egos and making sure we are still working as hard as we did last year and keeping that hunger to succeed,” Mack said.
He said last year was a “feel out year” for all the teams in the league, since it was the first season for all teams. Mack continued to say that every team was trying to find their feet and their identity, so the Seawolves are going to have to keep fine tuning and build off of last year’s success.
Richardson said she has spoken with some of the players and reported back that they feel confident about the season, but don’t want to get ahead of themselves.
“They say they’ll take it one game at a time and I think that’s the mindset that they need,” she said.
Another new aspect for the team to keep in mind as they prepare for the season is the two new teams joining the league this year, which is going to make the season twice as long.
Mack said the teams are from New York and Toronto.
With these two teams added to the schedule, the Seawolves will be playing about 20 games total this season.
“In terms of managing player’s loads, you really have to look at your team’s depth and make sure you an survive a 20 game season. So it’s just about managing bodies and making sure it’s not the same people playing week in, week out,” Mack said.
Richardson said Seattle fans are excited for the season to begin and said she is confident the tickets will be sold out by the first game of the season.
“Tickets are definitely selling very quickly. For the home opener we’re down to only a couple hundred seats left and for season tickets they’re nearly sold out. Everyone’s been just ecstatic to be purchasing their season tickets and to be coming back to the games,” she said.
She added since the win last season, rugby popularity has skyrocketed and continues to grow.
A lot of the fans didn’t even start off as rugby fans, but a lot of them are enthusiastic sports fans in general who wanted to support the new team in town, Richardson said.
“I want to give a shout out to the fans last year. As a Seattle player showing up and playing at Starfire with such a supportive group was super enjoyable and I’m dead serious when I say it really puts us on as players on the field. I think what we’ve got going here in Seattle is something unique and as players we just want to make sure fans feel appreciated and get the love they deserve,” Mack said.
To buy single game tickets or season tickets, go to https://seattleseawolves.showare.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=7.