What’s wrong with the Seawolves?

So if you had a newspaper covering the Seattle Seawolves instead devoting space to a bunch of second stringers playing slow football or a hockey team that isn’t here yet, a beat reporter would be asking the question, “What’s wrong with the Seawolves?”

The two-time champions have started the year with a 0-3 record, and the home opener Saturday, Feb. 22, a 39-17 drubbing by the Toronto Arrows, has diminished our hopes here that the Seattle team can make the playoffs, still months away.

But before we get there, someone has to answer the question: What’s wrong with the Seawolves?

Possible answers:

  1. Injuries. Lots of them, which have kept most of the team’s overseas signings off the field.
    Ross Neal
    Ross Neal

    Ross Neal from England has a broken hand. Harry Davies from Wales is hobbling around in a walking cast after surgery to his foot. I asked him if he came here for USA healthcare, and he said, “No, it was better from where I came.” (It’s Trump’s fault!).

    Harry Davies
    Harry Davies

    Ryno Eksteen has been out from the beginning with a cut foot. David Busby from Ireland played last night, but there was no sign of FP Pelser, another South African.

 

Cima
Ben Cima kicking

And then there is Ben Cima, on a concussion protocol after a nasty collision in the Tasman Mako game on Jan. 26. Scott Dean came in for Cima at stand off and kicked his way to glory and a win. He started there in the first two games in the regular season, both defeats. So the coaches tried Shalom Suniula there last night. He’s a better inside center where he has more time to distribute the ball and set up plays. And Jeff Hassler is a better wing than he is a center. But nice to see him back on the field after recovering from his injury. Also good to see Stephan Coetzee back out there.

  1. What’s missing? Besides Cima, who isn’t there this year who was there last year? Olive Kilifi? The USA Eagle prop is now an assistant coach with the Seattle Saracens, the amateur club in town. (And he reminds us that the Saracens play Glendate, CO, Merlins on Feb. 28, Friday at 7 p.m. at Starfire Stadium). Kilifi was injured much of last year, and as another prop on the Seawolves pointed out, they still won games.
    Front rows
    Front row props Tim Metcher, Djustice Sear-Duru and Jake Ilnicki
    Front row 2
    Prop Kellen Gordon

    And putting Tendai Mtawarira on the Team of the Week after the Seawolves-Old Glory game was an insult to the Seawolves front row who pushed, lifted and dominated the set scrums against Washington on Feb. 16. Bring up No. 2, Mr. Producer, and let’s see the Old Glory front row pedaling with their feet off the ground.

Apisai Naikatini? Api always gave the team at least a strong half. That allowed Brad Tucker to play wing forward (who says he likes playing second row and wing forward, finding challenges in both positions). Tucker, Riekert Hattingh and Nakai Penny at back row with Vili Toluta’u and Eric Duechle coming in as reserves. No drop off in talent there.

Phil Mack
Phil Mack

Phil Mack? He has been the coaching steadfast since day one, leading the team as player-head coach after last-minute call-up the first year and then as player-assistant coach last year. Now he’s the full-time assistant coach. Time to get back on the field? He’s a steady influence there, and he could play scrumhalf with JP Smith at No. 10 until Cima reappears.

  1. Culture. The team talks about that a lot, from owners, coaches and players. Ask Toluta’u about bringing new players into the fold, and he will talk about “getting them into our culture.” Second paragraph in the team’s media press kit defines that as:

“The organization strives to develop, cultivate and expand the sport of rugby in the US while empowering discipline, duty, respect and the spirit of inclusion both on and off the pitch. The Seattle Seawolves aim to foster a winning culture by enabling its members to meet their true potential while pursuing excellence in the MLR competition. Community outreach is a key tenet (not “tenant,” Rebecca and Kate!) of the Seawolves’ philosophy, and the organization strives to continually help enrich and give back to the greater Seattle area and the Pacific Northwest.”

Mack seems to bring that onto the field. He probably would not say much, but meeting his eyes when a player was not meeting “their true potential while pursuing excellence” would not be a pretty sight.

And no one connected to the Seawolves ever talked more about culture than Kevin Flynn, who served last year as team manager. Now he continues that with the Seattle Saracens where he has been president for many years. Is there some one with the Seawolves who can get them re-connected to the culture where they do community outreach, help enrich us and start playing together?

Getting everything right is going to take some time, but time they have. The Seawolves can come in third in their division over Utah, Austin and Colorado. They beat Houston, the second place team in the Western branch of the league, in the playoffs. Hand San Diego, the first place team, their second defeat against the Seawolves this year and then go on to meet the winner of the Eastern Division (which is looking very strong these days).

What could go wrong?

 

 

Ex Seattle Seawolves coach sues MLR champs for pay

Tony Healy, the former coach for the Seattle Seawolves rugby team, has filed suit to recover pay, damages and attorney fees and costs from the new champions of Major League Rugby.

Download suit here: Healy suit

Healy alleged in his suit, filed at King County Superior Court on June 28, 2018, that he was hired in September 2017 as head coach of the Seawolves.

Negotiating with Adrian Balfour, the chief operating officer of the Seattle Rugby Club, Healy said he was to be paid $43,000 from January 1, 2018, to June 30, 2018. After that the contract was to be automatically renewed for six months until either party gave two-months notice of ending it.

Healy, 48, played rugby himself, representing Canada 15 times and playing professionally in France and England. He has been a coach for 14 years and in 2017 led the British Columbia team to the Canadian national championship.

Healy, who lives in Victoria, B.C., said Balfour told him that his immigration status would be dealt with and he would be given a worker visa to cover his employment.

Balfour said July 24, 2018, there was no basis for the suit.

“He never worked for the Seawolves,” Balfour said. “We tried twice to get him a visa but were turned down both times by the INS.”

The Immigration and Naturalization Service, according to Balfour, said that Healy’s time as a coach in an amateur competition did not make him a professional coach.

“We would have been up for him as our coach, but the INS said no.

“It’s black and white,” he said. “We’ll let the facts play out, but it’s up to Tony now.”

Healy quit his job at the end of 2017, made six trips to Seattle to select players, build a training routine and assemble a staff. Between Jan. 22, 2018, and March 30, 2018, the suit said, he was not paid because his visa had not been approved. Balfour paid $7,500 to Healy’s wife in February after Healy complained, the suit said.

In March 23, 2018, Balfour informed Healy that his visa had not been approved, and a week later Shane Skinner, another investor in the team, said his employment was ended and he would not be paid.

Healy did not respond recently to efforts to reach him for this story.

The 2018 season was the first of Major League Rugby, with seven teams competing from April 21, 2018, to the championship game on July 7, 2018. The Seawolves won six of eight games, losing twice to the Glendale, CO., team, which they beat in the championship game.