History / Accolades

Rugby Flying Tackle

Several players who started in Glendale’s Academy program quickly rose through the ranks. During the 2018 season, Mika Kruse, Jake Christmann, Carlo de Nysschen and Siale Maka were all offered Raptors contracts. A number of other Academy players were also brought up to train with the pro team following their fall season, and more still were offered contracts with other teams – a demonstration of the strength of Glendale’s programming, as well as an incredible source of pride. In addition to the in-league successes of the Academy program in 2018, several participants were invited to join the Junior All-Americans team that faced the Canada U-20s in the World Rugby Trophy Qualifiers.

Glendale Director of Rugby Mark Bullock explains some of the program’s history:

“In the first year of this program, we brought in a full team of athletes (30+) from around the U.S. with the idea that they would train as a team and then compete against collegiate and local club teams from around the area, and then, eventually, other Academy teams from other Major League Rugby markets.”
On the whole, the inaugural year of the Academy program was a success – but continuing and furthering that success required an evolution. Given the difficulty the program faced in finding adequate competition for a full team and schedule, a reorganization of the Academy was undertaken. After a careful, first-hand examination of the academy structures used by U.K. Premiership Clubs, it was determined that Glendale’s Academy program would move to a more European-style model, narrowing the participant pool to around a dozen players and allowing them to fully train with the professional Raptors squad.

Glendale hosted a Collegiate All-Americans camp in August 2018, an opportunity for the Academy coaches to evaluate the best young rugby players in the country. Not only did the camp offer college-level players the opportunity to compete in the best rugby facilities in the U.S., but also afforded Glendale’s coaches a chance to continue to recruit the best rugby talent for Academy programming. Director of Rugby Mark Bullock explains the importance of the camp: “The City of Glendale prides itself with its commitment to the growth of rugby in the U.S. We love to host training and development opportunities for the next generation of professional rugby players and, of course, U.S. National Team members,” he said. “We like to think Rugbytown, USA is leading the way, providing a full pathway from youth to professional rugby through our Academy, the first of its kind in the States.”

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