Players Added: Brian Doyle (NYAC), Todd Clever (Japan), Adam Clarkin (Ireland), OJ Auimatagi (Life)
Players Subtracted: Tai Tuisamoa, Pat Mallon
Team Leaders: Ian Denham, Damien Fatognia, Zach Pangelinan, Chris Turori, Alex Byrne, Brian Doyle, Todd Clever
Players to Watch: Zach Pangelinan, Todd Clever
Warm-up Matches: NSW Country Cockatoos (lost 55-10), St. Mary’s (won 61-24), Oceanside (won 43-14), LA Rugby Club (lost 28-21), Old Aztecs (won 42-34)
On the back of 2014 MVP Zach Pangelinan OMBAC exceeded a lot of expectations last year and instead of sitting on their laurels that club has gone out and added two of the top names in American rugby in Todd Clever and Brian Doyle. Clever will join the team when his obligations finish in Japan but once he is with the club gives instant leadership and years overseas professional experience that few other teams have. Doyle similarly brings international experience having been capped for the Eagles a number of times. Doyle will look to fill the spot that Tai Tuisamoa vacated at lock last year when he took a contract with London Welsh.
Because of their proximity to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista OMBAC have a close relationship with the Eagles 7s team and it is expected that once again they will have a influx of players from the OTC that are not playing regularly on the IRB Sevens Series, including the likes of Will Holder. However, that could also have an impact on the club the other way as Zach Pangelinan is working his way back into national team selection.
OMBAC’s style is a defense-first style and the additions of Clever and Doyle should only help in that department. With the ball the team looks to use forward phases to create overloads and mismatches for their backs.
To help understand the goals of OMBAC for the upcoming season we talked with coach Jason Wood.
PRP: What are your goals this season?
Jason Wood: Last year we finished third behind SFGG and Glendale so obviously our goal this year is to improve on that. Our strength this year is our depth when everyone is available—it will be a rough selection process on those weeks. Our negative is that many of our players will not be available every week—Eagles 7s, work commitments, and lingering injuries. I like our attack and defense pattersn, our team culture, and our team preparations to date.
PRP: Brian Doyle and Todd Clever are both joining the team this year. What impact do you see them having?
JW: Todd was at OMBAC in 2007 and 2008 before moving to South Africa and then Japan. He is an OMBAC guy and I considered him an OMBAC guy all through his time away—his brother has been with us since 2008 too. The impact of both will be very positive, obviously. We all know Todd is a great leaders, a player other players can follow. Brian has shown great leadership at trainings as well. I look forward to working with both of them to get the most out of our forwards and our entire team. One of our weaknesses last year was our lineout as our jumpers were always shorter than their opposition so Brian and Todd, along with our new hookers in Adam Clarkin (Ireland) and OJ (Life) we look to vastly improve our lineout.
PRP: Do you see Clever as the star that could bring even more attention to the PRP?
JW: Todd is a recognizable figure in USA rugby for sure but there are lots of good players in the PRP so bringing more attention to the PRP will be more attributable to the continued efforts of all the clubs in presenting a professional looking environment and product across the board. We try every home game and every week to take another step in the right direction in accomplishing that goal and if Todd helps make that more noticeable, then great.
PRP: OMBAC were a bit of a surprise last year. What do you think was the reason for the success?
JW: We finished the season before last year (2013) with a loss to Denver in the elite eight so finishing third in the PRP last year was not too much of a surprise to us. We knew at the end of the prior season that we would have a good squad going into 2014. We just needed to replace Gene Mountjoy, our coach, and Joe Fontana, our captain. Ian Denham has stepped up in a huge way to fill that captaincy role and I’m just trying my best to provide a platform for a bunch of good player leaders to take ownership and make our goals a reality as a team.
PRP: What did you learn from last year’s competition that you will implement this year?
JW: Number one is we have to fly into Denver on Friday night—being at the airport at five in the morning to travel up there and play the same day was a huge mistake on my part. I take full responsibility for that loss to Glendale and the tie with Denver. At halftime we were down only three to Glendale and we were way ahead of Denver at the half. In both games we ran out of gas in the second half.
PRP: Zach Pangelinan had an outstanding year. Do you think he can replicate that this year and do yout hink other players will step up this year?
JW: I suspect that Zach will spend more time with the Eagles 7s team. He is looking fit and strong and as we all know he is electrifying when he is on. What that said others will have to step up and I’m sure others will.
PRP: Since joining the PRP, how has the club grown off the field?
JW: There is for sure a felling of more professionalism within the team and club with the PRP. It feels much like the early years of the Super League. I hope the clubs follow through better this time and we don’t look to change too quick but instead improving as structured and then taking little steps to continue to improve.