Raps Part Ways With MLR

Source: Seth McConnell / Colorado Raptors

On Wednesday, April 8th, Matt McCarthy of Rugby Wrap Up sent out a tweet stating that the Colorado Raptors would be withdrawing from the MLR. The tweet caused quite a stir as many other media members began to confirm it. On Thursday, April 9th, the Colorado Raptors themselves made it official:

Earlier on Wednesday, Raptors co-owner and Mayor of Glendale Mike Dunafon sent an email to the players informing them that the Raptors would be withdrawing from MLR. Bryan Ray of Americas Rugby News was able to obtain a copy of that email and you can read it here.

The language in both the email and official announcement is quite similar. One thanks the players, one thanks the fans and both provide the same super vague explanation for why they are leaving:

The language in both the email and official announcement is quite similar. One thanks the players, one thanks the fans and both provide the same super vague explanation for why they are leaving:

“We believe that our greater responsibility lies in the development of American players who can go on to win the World Cup for the United States.”

Rumours of Colorado leaving began to circulate last November as Pat Clifton sent out these two tweets last November. Clifton’s tweets suggested financial reasoning behind why the Raptors were considering leaving. However, despite that, the Raptors still made two of the higher-profile signings of the offseason when they locked up former All Black Rene Ranger and former Wallaby Digby Ioane (who did not even play a game). The Raptors certainly demonstrated a willingness to spend money and a willingness to pay for elite talent.

One of those questions surrounds what exactly are the Raptors doing? The team is not folding. This has nothing to do with COVID-19. The Raptors will continue to exist and operate in the quest to help the USA win a Rugby World Cup. But what exactly is their plan? What will the roster look like? What competition will they play in? All these questions will probably be answered in time.

Furthermore, how does the this effect the 2021 season? There will be two expansion teams joining the league (Dallas and Los Angeles) which now brings the league to 13 teams. With all the Raptors players contracted to MLR (as a single entity league players contracts are with the league, not the individual team) will there be a dispersal draft? Do Dallas and LA get first crack at any players on that roster? Does the league try to get a 14th team or just play with 13 in 2021? How will the extra bye weeks affect the schedule if they do? Again, I’m certain all these questions will be answered in time.

The oddest part of this is the timing. Perhaps Dunafon simply wanted to inform his players of the decision. However, once the media began reporting it, it became obvious that the Raptors would need to make a statement. I would imagine they intended to publicly announce this a little later because it has created a very odd situation.

The Raptors were still actively promoting MLR events including the newly announced MLR Collegiate Draft on Wednesday. The Raptors are still participating in MLR Virtual as well. It was quite the odd sight to see. On the same day that the Colorado Raptors withdrew from the MLR, Raptors’ winger Mika Kruse battled Renata Roberts-Tenana of Old Glory DC in the semi-final of MLR Virtual.

Kruse, still decked out in his Raptors gear, defeated Roberts-Tenana 21-7. Kruse will now take on Will Magie of the Austin Gilgronis in the Final this weekend. It is utterly bizarre to see the Raptors actively participating in MLR events after withdrawing themselves from the league. Perhaps even more bizarre is the league has yet to issue a statement.

Ultimately, it is a sad day for MLR. The Colorado Raptors are one of the 7 founding teams of MLR and have been a cornerstone of American rugby since they were initially founded in 2007. They were arguably the best team in MLR in 2018 but fell to the Seattle Seawolves in the final.

In 2019, they struggled and found themselves in the unfamiliar position of not being near the top of the table ultimately missing the playoffs. The Raptors got off to a rough 0-3 start in 2020 then put together 2 straight wins before COVID-19 resulted in the cancellation of the season. The Raptors final MLR game is a 22-19 victory over the Toronto Arrows. Mika Kruse picked up the Raptors’ final MLR try in the 41st minute and Robbie Petzer added the final 3 points with a 76th minute penalty.

For all your MLR and Toronto Arrows news, be sure to follow @BressetteTheJet on your favourite social media platform.


Recent Posts