2021 Roster Analysis

Old Glory has announced their final roster for the 2021 season, so it’s time to breakdown what’s stayed the same and what’s changed.

Front row

The front row was the area that needed the most work this offseason, after the disastrous scrums of the 2020 season. As such, there has been an influx of experienced front row players.

At tighthead prop, we have Steven Longwell coming from the Scottish Premiership and James King coming from the Hong Kong Premiership. Both are experienced players who should help secure what was the weakest position last year.

In the center we have US Eagle Mikey Sosnene-Feagai returning at hooker, backed up by two more returners in Max Lum and Mo Katz. It’s worth noting as well that James King has significant experience at hooker, and Dante Lopresti filled the role last year when injuries required it, so we might see either of those two step in at some point this season.

At loosehead prop, Jamie Dever is joining the team, having played for the San Diego Legion and Houston Sabercats, to provide a boost of MLR experience. Jack Iscaro, who was promising before he was injured in the preseason last year, is coming back, as is Dante Lopresti, a local who played significant minutes in 2020.

Also listed as props are Jack Carroll, an up-and-coming local, and Hannibal Vaivao, who seems to be a convert from rugby league. Will Vakalahi, a promising young talent who played well last year, was unfortunately injured in the preseason and may not play this season. He is still signed with the team, though.

Predicted depth chart

TightheadLongwellKing
HookerSosnene-FeagaiLumKatz
LooseheadDeverIscaroLoprestiVaivao, Carroll

Locks

Old Glory is keeping their starting pair of locks, but has added some much-needed depth to the position.

Tevita Naqali and Apisai Naikatini, both experienced, respected players, are reprising their roles as DC’s starting locks. In behind them is new signing Stan South, who won the u20 World Cup with England in 2016, and has bounced around Europe since. He should be a good addition for when either of the starting two need rest.

Also at lock are David Beach, a club player from Mystic River, and Casey Renaud, one Old Glory’s collegiate draft signings. Both are more development prospects at this point, but could still sneak in to the lineup at some point.

Predicted depth chart

LockNaqaliBeach
LockNaikatiniSouthRenaud

Loose forwards

This is one of the groups that I’m most excited to see this upcoming season.

At flanker, co-captain Mungo Mason is returning, and he will be joined this year by Toronto Arrows stalwart Luke Campbell. I think we can expect a ton from these two in the, as both are proven MLR players.

Another experienced addition is Callum Gibbins, the former captain of the Glasgow Warriors. He’s joined the team in a player/coach role, so I don’t know how much playing time he will have, but he’s a great addition to this team both on and off the field.

Old Glory also has a wealth of young talent at flanker. Cory Daniel and Dacoda Worth were both on the team last season, although neither saw game time. A new addition is Matthew Gordon, the other collegiate draftee. Also signed is Nic Mirhashem, although he isn’t listed on the roster for reasons I haven’t been able to uncover.

At number 8, we have Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz returning, backed up by local favorite Josh Brown. It’s worth noting that Luke Campbell played number 8 in Toronto, so he could fill in here as well.

Predicted depth chart:

FlankerMasonGibbinsWorth
FlankerCampbellGordonDaniel
8Fa’anana-SchultzBrown

Half-backs

One of the most dynamic half-back pairings of the league is is returning, with Danny Tusitala returning as scrumhalf and Jason Robertson returning as flyhalf. They should keep the game moving just like they did last year, so expect an exciting, fast-paced match when play starts.

Behind Tusitala at scrumhalf are returning player Sean Hartig, who has played extensively for the Old Glory Selects side, and new signing Dylan Thomas, who has played for the USA Sevens national team.

Backing up Robertson is Mike Dabulas, a young player who did manage to get some game time in 2020, even scoring against NOLA in the season opener. Also returning is Tyler Myles, who has been on the squad since 2019, and Owen Sheehy, a Gonzaga High School grad.

Predicted depth chart

ScrumhalfTusitalaHartigThomas
FlyhalfRobertsonDabulasMylesSheehy

Back line

The back line last year was one of the best in the MLR. Hopefully, that will continue to be the case this year with most of the key starters returning. However, there are a couple big contributors leaving, and the lack of depth could be a problem later on.

In the center, we have Doug Fraser, Ciaran Hearn, and co-captain Thretton Palamo returning, although I expect that Palamo will play on the wing as well due to the lack of depth. A new addition here is Simi Moala, a Tongan with collegiate experience.

On the wing, we will definitely notice the absence of Declan O’Donnell, who won’t be returning. Replacing him are Sam Cusano, a player that DC took from Dallas in their dispersal draft, and D’Montae Noble, an exciting young player from Kutztown. As I said, I think Palamo will start here as well.

At fullback, the legendary Dylan Taikato-Simpson, or DTS, will be sitting the season out to stay with his family. He has stated that he hopes to return in 2022, but while he’s out his shoes will be filled by Renata Roberts-Te Nana, who was one of the most underrated players of last season in my opinion.

Expected depth chart

Inside CenterFraserMoala
Outside CenterHearn
WingPalamoNoble
WingCusano
FullbackRoberts-Te Nana

Conclusions

I think the coaching staff did a great job of returning their top players while addressing areas of concern. The front row in particular has seen an infusion of experience that should at least keep the scrums manageable.

I’m most excited to see the play of the back row, with dynamic playmakers in Mungo Mason and Luke Campbell combined with the wealth of knowledge that Callum Gibbins brings. If the scrum can be stabilized, we could see even better play out of what was a dynamic group last season.

The back line isn’t quite as deep as I would hope, with only a couple of backup players, but there are enough other players who could cover out of position that I don’t think it will actually be an issue in the season.

Overall, I have high hopes for this team. Only four more days until they are back in action!