2022 Season review
The 2022 Major League Rugby season was a titanic and record breaking season which saw a huge amount of changes which will have a big impact on the league moving forward. The season began with some new additions to the competitions.
For the very first time in the MLR, Television Match Officials were introduced to help the referees during games. The introduction of TMO was long overdue in the MLR as it takes the league closer to other professional leagues around the world that use TMO. As the technology is there, it will help referees make the correct calls and made a big impact in 2022.
This was one of two major introductions to the league at the start of 2022. This season was also the first for the Dallas Jackals who made their debut in the competition, a year later then they planned. It saw the league expand to 13 teams for the first time, although their season went very poorly.
The MLR’s newest team had a pretty terrible first season in the league. Dallas lost all 16 of their regular season games, finishing the season on four points. Two of those came from losing bonus points, with the other two coming as try bonus points. It was a tough first season for the Jackals and their head coach Michael Hodge.
At the other end of the table there were some interesting battles for the playoff sports. In the Eastern Conference, the New England Free Jacks were able to pull away from the rest of the competition, finishing top of the Eastern Conference with the best record in MLR helped by 10 bonus points.
They were followed by Rugby ATL and Rugby New York who finished just a point apart, thanks in part to Rugby New York securing a massive win against New England in the final week of the regular season. Toronto finished fourth in the East, missing out on the playoffs by a margin of 15 points, despite having a better defensive record than Rugby New York.
It was a defensive struggle for the two teams bottom of the league. New Orleans Glory and Old Glory DC finished on 25 and 23 points respectively, with both teams struggling to overcome a leaky defence. It was particularly tough for Old Glory DC who conceded the 2nd most tries in the entire MLR.
The Western Conference in the regular season was a slightly closer affair, with the Austin Gilgronis finishing top of the conference, four points above the LA Gilintis. The Houston SaberCats finished in third despite losing their last two games of the regular season. This originally meant that the Austin Gilgronis, LA Gilintis and Houston SaberCats would be the teams going to the playoffs.
However, only four days before the eliminators were supposed to start the MLR announced a huge decision which would have major repercussions throughout the league going forward. Both the Austin Gilgronis and the LA Gilintis were disqualified from playoff competition.
This was because both teams had breached the salary cap rules of the league. Both teams were owned by the same man, F45 founder Adam Gilchrist. It was a huge decision from the league and there has not been a huge amount of information released as to exactly why the league disqualified both teams.
But at the time, it opened up the opportunity for teams who originally would not have made the playoffs. The Seattle SeaWolves and San Diego Legion became part of the playoff picture despite finishing fifth and sixth. The Legion had struggled all season with their defence, with the leagues best attack being a crucial part of their success.
This was still not enough for the Utah Warriors to advance to the playoffs. Utah lost 11 of their 16 games, but 7 of those came with losses of seven points or fewer, with the team having a better points difference than the Houston SaberCats who had almost double the amount of wins that Utah had.
In the eliminators, Seattle were able to inflict a heavy defeat on the Legion despite the Legion scoring first. This eliminator game would be the last game of former England captain Chris Robshaw’s storied career. Rugby New York got through their eliminator game despite 18 points from Rugby ATL Fly Half Kurt Coleman.
In the conference Finals, Seattle once again showed their incredible attack, scoring six tries which included a pair from Duncan Matthews as they advanced to the Championship Final. In the Final they would face Rugby New York despite them being down 16-10 after an hour. New York scored two tries in the final 12 minutes to advance to the final.
In the final, Seattle got off to a very familiar start, with Martin Iosefo scoring a try just four minutes into the game. But Rugby New York scored four tries before Seattle were able to score another. Rugby New York just took the game away from Seattle, including a penalty try.
Seattle’s late efforts were not enough and Rugby New York became champions of Major League Rugby for the first time in their history, with Seattle losing in the MLR final for the first time, having won the first two competitions.
It was also a season that saw some brilliant individual efforts. Kiwi back Beaudein Waaka finished second in points, with his contributions meaning he was named Player of the Year for the entire competition, with his coach Scott Mathie being named Coach of the Year.
USA centre Tavite Lopeti was named Rookie of the Year and there were two players from the Rugby New York team to win awards. Brendan O’Connor was named Forward of the Year and Andy Ellis was MVP of the Championship Match in his final game of professional rugby before retiring.
2022 saw some pretty incredible rugby and the consequences of the year will have a huge affect on the league. Partly due to their disqualification from the league, the Austin Gilgronis and LA Giltinis both folded in the months following the season, also due to their owners personal fortune struggling.
What to expect in the 2023 season
The major change for the 2023 season is that the league is being reduced to 12 teams, having started out with 13 teams in 2022. There are two reasons for this, the first being that both the Austin Gilgronis and LA Giltinis folded in the offseason. Both teams had been disqualified from the playoffs due to salary cap breaches.
Both the teams were then expelled from the league in October 2022 due to unspecified reasons. What it appears is that the man who owns both franchises, Adam Gilchrist, was no longer able to financially support both teams as he saw his personal wealth decrease due to his company F45 struggling.
MLR has therefore decided to go back to 12 teams, with a new team entering in 2023. The Chicago Hounds will make their debut in MLR in 2023, which s something that has been in the works since 2020. They will compete in the Western Conference, with both conferences returning to six teams in 2023.
Chicago have made some big moves in the build up to their inugarul season of MLR. They have installed fromer Austin Gilgronis head coach Sam Harris as the teams head coach, with Harris bringing experience from a successful career in Australia. Former Scottish international and LA Gilintis player Adam Ashe is the teams attack coach.
They have also made some big player signings. USA internationals like Bryce Campbell, Paddy Ryan and JP Eloff were the first few signings announced by team. Chicago has been able to benefit from LA folding, having added Two-time Back of the Year Billy Meakes, who will be a huge player for the team going forward.
Chicago have also added Luke Carty and Luke White as well as trades for Mason Koch and Lindsey Stevens. It will be a massive year for the team and they are benefiting from a huge new stadium. The Hounds will have SeatGeek Stadium as their home venue, a stadium which has hosted six international test matches, with the USA playing at the stadium four times.
We look certain to be set for another year with some brilliant attacking rugby. One of the things that has really differentiated Major League Rugby from other professional rugby leagues is that we tend to see a huge amount more tries in each game. Last season, each game averaged 7.1 tries per game, with a total of 772 being scored in the entire season.
That is a higher average than big European leagues like Premiership Rugby and the United Rugby Championship. There is no reason why this cannot continue next season, even with one fewer team than in the 2022 season. The MLR has some incredibly exciting attacking talent.
Guys like Billy Meakes, Ed Fidow and Beaudein Waaka will all be returning for the upcoming season, sure to add even more attacking intent. MLR is set for another exciting season of try scoring ahead.
One of the most exciting things we have seen in the offseason is some huge additions to the league. Rodney Iona is a guy to look out for in the 2023 season. Iona is a Samoan international who played for the Brumbies in the 2021 and 202 Super Rugby seasons. He is going to exceptional to watch controlling the New Orleans back group.
New Orleans have added a couple more guys with Super Rugby expreicne, with Luke Campbell and Tom Florence guys to look out for alongside former Scottish international Dougie Fife.
Joel Hodgson is another new player to look out for. Hodgson is an incredibly experienced Premiership player, scoring over 200 points in Premiership Rugby with Newcastle Falcons. He is now going to be the creative presence in the Utah Warriors backline and that Utah quite an exciting team to watch in 2023.
Dallas are looking to improve on their poor inaugural season and have brought in Tomas Baravelle. The Argentinian winger has played over 60 times for Italian club Benneton and will be a force in the Jackals front row.
Mitch Jacobson was certainly one of the most surprising additions of the offseason when it was announced he would join the New England Free Jacks for the 2023 season. Jacobson is just 26 years old and yet has a huge amount of experience in Super Rugby and the NPC. He has captained his regional side and is a huge addition to New England’s back row.
The Champions Returning strong, with a new name
Rugby New York have been able to return a lot of the faces that helped them to the title last year. Andy Ellis will remain with the team, having moved into coaching. Ellis will be a technical advisor for the team, with players like reigning forward of the year Brendan O’Connor and league top try scorer Ed Fidow returning for 2023.
This season Rugby New York will also adopt a new name. They will now be called Rugby New York Ironworkers. They take this name from the ironworks training centre located near to their home.
2023 is going to be a brilliant year for Major League Rugby. For one thing, the league will hope that it can begin the season with the same number of teams it ends the season. There has been a lot of changing teams in the early years of the MLR and for the league to be a success, there needs to be some consistency.
But we are set for a great year. There is a bunch of new talent that will make the league even more exciting than ever before, as well as a lot of talent who helped to make last year very good. It is difficult to try to figure out whose on top and who struggles, but ti will certainly be something you don’t want to miss.