Players Added: Josh Tucker, Ante Drazina (returning from injury)
Players Subtracted: none
Coaching Changes: Andrew King (forwards coach)
Team Leaders: Andrew Cook, Dustin Muhn
Players to Watch: Andrew Cook, Dustin Muhn, Ante Drazina
Warm-up Matches: Sacramento Capitals (scrimmage), St. Mary’s (lost 36-31)
Possibly no other team showed as much growth in the 2014 season as Olympic Club. A young roster coupled with the step up in competition meant that for the most part O-Club saw losses but as the season progressed their were positive signs that give hope for a solid 2015. Those losses weren’t unexpected as the club was the in the midst of a rebuild but now that rebuild is now over and with a core group of players centered around Dustin Muhn, World Cup veteran Colin Hawley, and Andrew Cook the team has expectations of finishing higher in the table and pushing for a playoff spot.
O-Club were in most matches until the end last season and this year they hope that with another year under their belts those close matches will turn into wins. Keegan Engelbrecht, Muhn, and Hawley are weapons in the backs that few others have. Questions still remain about their forward pack but if they can stay even with other teams in that regard they should give themselves a strong platform to attack. Defensively they should be one of the top teams in the league and if the scoring can keep pace they should be one of the most exciting teams to watch.
To get more insight on the season we talked with club director Eoin O’Toole.
PRP: What do you think were the main lessons O-Club learned from last season?
Eoin O’Toole: 80 minutes of focused rugby is required. In this league if you have a 5 minute lapse teams are good enough to punish you and that can be the difference in games.
PRP: As the year went on the team started to improve. Do you see that carrying over into this season?
EO: Absolutely, we are starting with a much higher baseline in 2015.
PRP: O-Club was in the midst of a rebuild last year. Is that still the case or does the club feel like it has the pieces needed to push for a playoff spot?
EO: No longer rebuilding, we have our basis for moving forward now, guys know each others play better, the coaches know the players better and vice versa, we will expect a playoff push.
PRP: With a younger team how much does the club look to team leaders to push the whole squad?
EO: The ‘leaders’ have been many and set a great early tone so the team has already shown a great collective sense of responsibility and are pushing each other. A lot of our guys come from rugby programs with exceptionally high standards (Cal, St Marys) so they expect a lot of themselves and their teammates, as the club expects a lot of them.
PRP: O-Club has had a connection with both St. Mary’s and Cal in the past. Are there more players from those schools coming into the squad?
EO: Yes. Simple answer but the rich history and high expectations of the club along with some outstanding recruits like Captain Andrew Cook, Michael Haley and others have brought in a lot of St. Mary’s guys. For both colleges we will always compete with SFGG for players but have focussed a lot on recruiting and provide a great rugby and life experience for our players.
PRP: Off the field, how has the club grown since joining the PRP?
EO: The Olympic Club as an institution is a juggernaut and the rugby club has been working hard with them for continued growth. We have benefitted from the strong structure of our club and other sports teams within the club. We are always improving and the PRP has helped us align some processes even quicker than we would have and our back office is in top shape as a result.