The MLR has done a great job to fill a sport-less void by creating the MLR Virtual tournament. Last Saturday saw more than 7,000 people tune into a Twitch stream to watch their favourite MLR players battle it out in Rugby20. MLR Virtual is great for getting in your rugby fix while in quarantine. You can also watch classic matches, rugby movies, or read rugby books. Perhaps you can do some solo training. Hopefully we will all be able to get back on the pitch one day.
One idea being tossed around by MLR clubs is to have exhibition matches once we all get through this pandemic. The matches will likely take place between the clubs themselves. However, the suggestion of exhibition games in the fall (before contracts are up in October) got me thinking about what if one of the exhibition matches was an All-Star Game?
The MLR has yet to implement an All-Star Game. This article is not about whether or not they should, it’s simply about what an MLR All-Star Game could look like. Therefore, I present five ideas for an MLR All-Star format.
East vs West
The conference vs conference All-Star Game is a staple across the majority of professional sports leagues. The league is already divided into two, so players coming together to represent their conference just makes sense. It’s the easiest format to pitch to sports fans since we are so used to seeing it.
An All-Star Game can be a great marketing tool for a sports league. For it to be as effective as possible, you need to have representation from across the entire league. Therefore, a requirement of each format will be that all 12 clubs need to be represented by at least one player in the Starting XVs. An East vs West matchup may look something like this:
1. Tendai Mtawarira (OGDC) 2. Dylan Fawsitt (RUNY) 3. Cole Keith (TOR) 4. Johan Momsen (RATL) 5. Nate Brakeley (RUNY) 6. Tomas de la Vega (TOR) 7 Matt Heaton (RATL) 8 Cam Dolan (NOLA) 9. John Poland (NEFJ) 10 Jason Robertson (OGDC) 11 Julian Dominguez (NOLA) 12 Con Foley (NOLA) 13 Carl Meyer (NOLA) 14 Dan Moor (TOR) 15 Sam Malcolm (TOR)
1. Djustice Sears-Duru (SEA) 2. Diego Fortuny (HOU) 3. Mason Pedersen (AUS) 4. Brad Tucker (SEA) 5. Josh Furno (SDL) 6. Dominic Akina (AUS) 7. Psalm Wooching (SDL) 8. Riekert Hattingh (SEA) 9. De Wet Roos (HOU) 10. Hagen Schulte (UTA) 11. John Ryberg (COL) 12. Ma’a Nonu (SDL) 13. Rene Ranger (COL) 14. Save Totovosau (SDL) 15. Mat Turner (SEA)
North America vs The World
Initially, I was thinking Canada vs USA would be cool. However, that would cut out a lot of the league and we already have test matches. I think it would be fun to flip the rivalry on its head and have the Canadian and American players team up for a common goal. That goal of course would be defeating a team of MLR All-Stars assembled from across the globe.
The MLR features players from a plethora of other countries. The World team will be assembled from the top players from outside of North America. This could be a fun format as it not only has Canada and the Americans working together on the pitch, but would be pitting MLR teammates against each other. For this match the same rules apply. Each team must be represented in the Starting XV, but they can be on either roster:
Team North America
1. Djustice Sears-Duru (SEA) 2. Dylan Fawsitt (RUNY) 3. Cole Keith (TOR) 4. Mike Sheppard (TOR) 5. Nate Brakeley (RUNY) 6. Hanco Germishuys (RUNY) 7. Matt Heaton (RATL) 8. Cam Dolan (NOLA) 9. Nate Augspurger (SDL) 10. Ben Cima (SEA) 11. Jeff Hassler (SEA) 12. Thretton Palamo (OGDC) 13. Ben LeSage (TOR) 14. Dan Moor (TOR) 15. Rob Povey (UTA)
1. Tendai Mtawarira (OGDC) 2. Diego Fortuny (HOU) 3. Kensuke Hatakeyama (NEFJ) 4. Johan Momsen (RATL) 5. Brad Tucker (SEA) 6. Tomas de la Vega (TOR) 7. Mungo Mason (OGDC) 8. Manuel Diana (TOR) 9. De Wet Roos (HOU) 10. Jason Robertson (OGDC) 11. Frank Halai (AUS) 12. Ma’a Nonu (SDL) 13. Rene Ranger (COL) 14. Save Totovosau (SDL) 15. Sam Malcolm (TOR)
The Champions vs All MLR
Major League Rugby is still a growing league. At 12 teams in 2020 and 14 teams for 2021, MLR is quite small compared to the other major leagues in North America. Which is why an All Star format inspired by when those leagues were small could be a lot of fun. The Seattle Seawolves remain the defending champions for one more year, so they earn the honour of taking on the All-MLR team.
As the Champions, the Seawolves will field their roster as is, with no reinforcements. The All MLR team will be composed of the top players from across the other 11 teams. The game would result in some bragging rights. The All-MLR team gets a shot to exact some revenge on the only champions the MLR has ever known, while the Seawolves can boast about a victory over the best the MLR has to offer forever.
The All MLR to take on the Seawolves may resemble this:
1. Tendai Mtawarira (OGDC) 2. Dylan Fawsitt (RUNY) 3. Kensuke Hatakeyama (NEFJ) 4. Johan Momsen (RATL) 5. Nate Brakeley (RUNY) 6. Tomas de la Vega (TOR) 7. Matt Heaton (RATL) 8. Cam Dolan (NOLA) 9. De Wet Roos (HOU) 10. Hagen Schulte (UTA) 11. Frank Halai (AUS) 12 Ma’a Nonu (SDL) 13. Rene Ranger (COL) 14. Dan Moor (TOR) 15. Sam Malcolm (TOR)
All MLR vs Touring Side
Another All-MLR team, but this time Seattle gets to take part. It would be a lot of fun to see how the best in MLR stack up against a top club side in the world. Tasman Mako traveled over to take on Seattle and Houston this year. Leinster made the trip to Hamilton to take on Canada in their prep for the Rugby World Cup. Why not invite them back to battle MLR’s best? Leinster would be a great calibre of club to bring over. Perhaps a team with plenty of history like Harlequins or Leicester Tigers would be good.
Perhaps a Scottish club like Edinburgh or Glasgow Warriors, since the Scottish RFU has a partnership with Old Glory DC. The Toronto Arrows also have a partnership with the Hurricanes of Super Rugby. The Hurricanes vs The All-MLR Team would certainly be a fun matchup. Bringing over a touring side, especially if it is a big club, will not only boost interest in the game itself, but grow the MLR brand worldwide.
The touring side squad would obviously depend on that club. The All-MLR roster would closely resemble the one above just with Seattle representation added in:
1. Tendai Mtawarira (OGDC) 2. Dylan Fawsitt (RUNY) 3. Kensuke Hatakeyama (NEFJ) 4. Johan Momsen (RATL) 5. Nate Brakeley (RUNY) 6. Tomas de la Vega (TOR) 7. Nakai Penny (SEA) 8. Cam Dolan (NOLA) 9. De Wet Roos (HOU) 10. Hagen Schulte (UTA) 11. Frank Halai (AUS) 12 Ma’a Nonu (SDL) 13. Rene Ranger (COL) 14. Dan Moor (TOR) 15. Sam Malcolm (TOR)
This format has been a trend that each league seems to try at some point. The benefit of this format is that you can really let the player’s personalities shine. The MLR Virtual tournament has shown that if you mic up players, you will get some comedy gold. You can also engage the fans a lot in this format. MLR can do a fan vote for the 46 players that would participate in the game.
The four players receiving the most votes will become the Captain and Vice Captain of both squads. The chosen captains will then get to draft from the 42 remaining All Stars. If done well, the fantasy draft could make for a great television event. No prospective roster here because I can’t predict what people would vote for. Fan votes are often quite interesting as it is usually the most popular players that get selected.
What do you think? If the MLR were to do an All Star Game, what format would you like to see? What did you think of the potential Starting XVs? Let me know! You can reach me @BressetteTheJet on your favourite social media network for all your Toronto Arrows and MLR news!