Cover Photo Credit: @photojacko
Preface: When COVID hit, the sports world was rocked. Established leagues were struggling with how to proceed and stay profitable. For startup leagues like Major League Rugby, things were even more worrisome. The cost to run a sports league is very high. Unlike other leagues with deep pockets, MLR did not have the luxury. However, through the pandemic, MLR has shown that they are here to stay and are ready to continue their brand nearly a year after cancelling their third season.
One of the more remarkable things that has come from MLR during the pandemic is that they welcomed another new franchise to the league. The LA Giltinis is the 12th team to join the league. The team will be playing at the historic Los Angeles Coliseum in their first year and provides the league with another major media market to showcase professional rugby.
Enjoy this next featured article on the newest professional rugby team coming to the United States.
Carson, Stadium Gear & Apparel
LA Giltinis: Shaken, Not Stirred
By Arch Jones
While the name is a far cry from the sexy and exotic Vesper cocktail made popular by the MI6 spy, the L.A. Giltinis are quickly becoming just as notorious. Funded in part by Loyals Rugby and Australian fitness tycoon Adam Gilchrist, perhaps the most surprising thing about the club is that it isn’t the first MLR franchise to be named after an alcoholic beverage.
The Austin Elite entered MLR in 2017 as one of the league’s founding members. After a disappointing debut season (going 3-11), the club rebranded the following year as the Austin Herd; the sophomore effort was even worse, as the Herd failed to win a single match, prompting calls of disorganization and disunity amongst the staff. Prior to the start of the 2020 season, the club was taken over by Adam Gilchrist and other Australian investors, becoming the Austin Gilgronis.
Thankfully for the L.A. club, the Gilgronis attracted much of the hazing and vitriol expected from a team monikered after “a soon to be released alcoholic beverage.” Though the third time wasn’t quite the charm for the Gilgronis, they showed flashes of promise, ultimately ending the season with a record of 1-3-1.
Where does that leave MLR’s second alcohol-based team, the LA Giltinis? They started off strong, quickly announcing two Australians--veteran Darren Coleman as head coach, and Stephen Hoiles pegged as assistant. Coleman is a former collegiate and semi-professional player, suiting up for both Southern Cross University and Eastern Suburbs RUFC, respectively. His most recent coaching highlight includes winning the Shute Shield with Gordon RFC just two years after becoming head coach.
What assistant coach Hoiles lacks in coaching experience, he makes up for in his deep knowledge of the game. With a 13 year playing history to draw from (including suiting up sixteen times for the Australia's National team, the Wallabies) he dived into coaching in 2018 after a short stint in sports TV.
Photo Credit: LA Giltinis (Stephen Hoiles [L] and Darren Coleman [R])
The Giltinis have been rolling out a strong inaugural lineup for their club. Some names are stalwarts: they announced the signing of fellow countrymen David Dennis, coming off a successful four year career with the Exeter Chiefs. Dennis has also represented Australia at the National level, appearing eighteen times for the Wallabies.
Others are young, hungry, and closer to home: Halfback Nick Hoyer has represented the USA Eagles on the National stage, and most recently finished his second stint with MLR’s own San Diego Legion. At only twenty-seven, Hoyer seems eager to find a permanent home with L.A.
In films, sequels are often mired with controversy; after the breakout success of 2006’s Casino Royale, 2008’s run-it-back Quantum of Solace was less than spectacular. Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as James Bond in 1995’s Goldeneye fared better than 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. While hope is on the horizon, the LA Giltinis have yet to prove that they will be a competitive, or even competent franchise.
First Team Training Camps - Photo Credit: LA Giltinis
Ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic delaying the season may have been just what the Loyals Rugby group needed. Talent isn’t an issue on any MLR squad. There are so many international veterans and eager young men playing for both the love of the game and for opportunity. What seems to set winning clubs apart from struggling ones are issues like administration, coaching, and development. The Giltinis seem to be off to a much better start than the Gilgronis, a club with three name and/or ownership changes in as many seasons.
The Giltinis kick off their 2021 season the weekend of March 20th. A new franchise, a blockbuster location, and as many storylines as a Hollywood flick. Grab your popcorn and find your seat.
Giltini Players At Training Camp - Photo Credit: LA Giltinis
. . .
Arch Jones played for the Fighting Carp at St. Cloud State University while getting his degree in art. He is a personal trainer for Anoka-Ramsey Community College Volleyball and hosts his own sports and lifestyle podcast with his fiancee Ashlyn called Anywhere Athletes. Check out their show with interviews including Connor Wallace-Sims (professional rugby player for Rugby United New York), Sam Dancer (CrossFit athlete), Alex Tucci (professional rugby player for the Utah Warriors) and John Beam (2019 CCCA Coach of the Year and featured coach on Season 5 of Netflix's Last Chance U).
Looking to get some rugby apparel? Check out Stadium Gear & Apparel's collection that includes national team inspired tees and exclusive merchandise from professional rugby players.