New competition with a new coach.
GLENDALE – Changes are in motion for the Glendale Raptors men’s first team as the club gears into action for the Winter/Spring season.
With four of the five California teams in the Pacific Rugby Premiership (PRP) playing in the California Cup in 2017, the PRP will move to a fall schedule this season as reported by This is American Rugby back in early October.
The fall schedule will help alleviate weather and travel concerns that the two Denver-area based clubs, Glendale and the Denver Barbarians (Barbos) have faced in past PRP seasons. Nevertheless, competition will continue in Glendale as it pursues a new opportunity to play other premier teams in a new elite rugby competition this spring.
“The reason we’re playing in this competition is because the PRP decided not to compete in the spring of 2017 and decided to move to a fall schedule,” explained Glendale Director of Rugby Mark Bullock. “We wanted to play in the spring. So we connected with like-minded clubs to continue to play a Winter/Spring schedule like we’ve done in past years with the PRP.”
Unique to the 2017 season, the new elite rugby season was developed as an informal competition which will allow teams to test themselves against some of the best opposition in the country and provide development opportunities and exposure for emerging talent.
Glendale’s opponents in the upcoming competition will include the Austin Huns, New Orleans (NOLA) and Rugby Utah. The Raptors will face each opponent in home and away matches.
In addition to the competition changes, the Raptors will also see change from a coaching perspective.
Newly hired head coach Dave Williams will replace the departing Andre Snyman, who left the club in late October to pursue business opportunities that will allow him to spend more time with his family.
“The addition of Dave Williams to our staff is an exciting point in our development as we move into our newest competition. Dave will have an opportunity to establish the excellence that we look for in our teams,” said Mark Bullock. “Oftentimes change has a positive effect on players because it’s a new voice and a new direction.”
Williams will bring a fresh philosophy and perspective to the Raptors, one which is forward thinking and attack-minded, according to Bullock.
“My philosophy is to enable the players to play a fast physical game that allows player mastery in their own roles and team dynamic,” said Williams. “Creating an environment that is conducive to developing players both on and off the pitch is vital for individual and team success.”
Despite the change, it’s expected to be a smooth transition in Glendale. Williams already brings a level of familiarity with the players and club as a whole from his prior role as the Raptors strength, skills and conditioning coach.
“I already know a large number of the players, coaches and culture of the club,” he added. “We will look to develop that culture and expand on the players’ rugby playing ability in more of a full time environment.”
A native of England, Williams also played on the USA Eagles 7s and 15s teams, as well as acted as Strength and Conditioning Coach for the USA Men’s National Team and most recently, as Assistant Coach of the PRO Rugby Denver Stampede team.
Williams has already started his work in preparation for the new season, recently joining Bullock at a Raptors hosted player combine in early November. The pair evaluated new talent for the Raptors’ D2, D3 and Elite teams that will take to the pitch for the 2017 campaign.
“The combine was very successful with 44 players showing up, showing the coaches what they can offer in terms of physicality, skills, decision making, combat conditioning, positionally, and then some conditioning games to finish the day,” Williams said of the combine. “We definitely picked up some new players, and it was great to see the progressions of the D2 players within the club and their ambitions to play at the highest level. As coaches, we have to develop their ability across the club so we are all improving and making the club stronger and more competitive as a whole.”
Bullock was likewise optimistic from the results of the combine, saying, “The quality of our team, we think, will be on par with the quality of last year’s team. Most of those players will be returning for the spring schedule. Additionally, the combine allowed us to identify a number of players that have the qualifications to compete on the Premier side.”
A new season for the Glendale Raptors marks a new era with a changed schedule, coach, philosophy and players in 2017. But the levels of excitement and enthusiasm will remain the same.
“The Premier team has already begun training in December and January for our kickoff on Jan. 28th,” said Bullock. “We will play a go forward, don’t step back brand of rugby and be an aggressive attacking team.”
Photo by Seth McConnell