The next part of the roster breakdown, covering the locks. There are no big surprises here, as everyone returning has been with the club for at least two years now. There is, however, one notable departure, as the entire 2020 draft class has officially departed.

Stan SouthMatthew Gordon
Tevita Naqali
Api Naikatini
David Beach

New year, same locks

Old Glory has had almost no turnover in the locks. Api Naikatini and Tevita Naqali have been fixtures of the starting lineup since the inaugural professional season in 2020, and they were joined by Stan South a year later. For the third season in a row, those three players are set to play most of the minutes at lock.

And for good reason. South, a former fringe Premiership player, has thrived in the MLR and become a true leader on the team. Naqali has been a versatile forward, covering several positions and often putting in a full eighty minutes. Naikatini is the oldest of the bunch, which gives him immense knowledge of the game but has led to some injuries. At 38, I wasn't certain he was going to want another season, but he clearly loves the game and loves playing for Old Glory.

In reserve is David Beach, who will be the only backup as this year as Old Glory has chosen to keep only four locks instead of the usual five. He first signed in 2021 but didn't get his first MLR cap until 2022, appearing once for Old Glory before being loaned to Utah for three matches. He will be stepping into a much bigger role this year as he will be the primary option in case of injury. He is also the only domestic option at lock, which could push him into action even sooner if foreign slots are needed elsewhere on the roster.

The last player from the first draft leaves

Old Glory drafted two players in the 2020 draft, lock Casey Renaud and loose forward Matthew Gordon. Renaud played significant minutes in 2021 while Gordon didn't play at all. Last season, Renaud pulled out to pursue career options, while Gordon switched to lock and got two caps. Now, Gordon is also on the way out. The 2020 draft class has completely disappeared after just two season. It's somewhat concerning, especially since the entire 2021 draft class has also departed this year. Considering how much Old Glory has invested in this year's picks, one can only hope they don't disappear quite so quickly.

However, it does highlight one potential positive: all of Old Glory's remaining young, up-and-coming players came up through Young Glory and OGDC's development pathways. Clearly something is going right there, and potentially we're seeing that long-term, pathway development is more valuable to teams than the draft. Watch this space.

Predicted depth chart

Much like in previous years, the ideal lineup is to have South and Naqali starting with Naikatini as cover on the bench, although those three really can be put in any order. Beach, in this case, would be around as injury cover. However, the limited foreign player slots may compromise this lineup and lead to Beach seeing significant time on the bench, as he's the only US-qualified lock. Fintan Coleman has also played at lock, so we may see him cover as well if the situation requires it.

Expectations for 2023

More of the same. This is an experienced group who are settled in their positions, and we really just need them to keep playing at that high level. There aren't likely to be many surprises, any breakout seasons or drops in form. We know what we're getting at this point, and that's a good thing. The more this group can act as an anchor, a point of stability for the rest of the forwards, the better.

That said, there is one thing in particular that I'd like to see continue to improve. Stan South has increasingly become a vocal leader on the team, and I think that is very much to the benefit of Old Glory. If the team goes for co-captains again in 2023, I think South would be an excellent option.

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