Toronto Arrows Begin to Take Shape
Major League Rugby recently announced that the Toronto Arrows would be joining the league for the 2019 season. The announcement was met with plenty of excitement from Canadian rugby fans, especially those from Toronto. Since the announcement, fans have been given a much better look as to what the Arrows will look like in their inaugural MLR season.
The next major announcement from MLR was the schedule. The regular season will be played over a 19-week span. Teams will play 16 games, one at home and one away against each team and will have 3 bye weeks. Again, this is great news for rugby fans as MLR has doubled the season length. The Toronto Arrows get the honour of opening up the season when they take on the NOLA Gold at Gold Stadium on January 26th, 2019. The game marks the beginning of the away block of the Arrows schedule. The Arrows will play all 8 away games to open the season followed by all 8 of their home games. The Arrows home opener will also be against the NOLA Gold on Sunday, April 7th. MLR has York Lions Stadium as the venue, confirming the location of the Arrows home games for 2019.
The Arrows 3 bye weeks are in week 2, week 9, and week 17. The nature of a 9 team league is that someone has to have a bye each week. The Arrows have ended up with a favourable bye schedule. The 3 byes are nicely spread out at the beginning, middle, and end of the season. Compare this to Utah, who have their 3rd bye in week 8, and New York, who have back-to-back byes in weeks 2 and 3, and it’s easy to see that Toronto got a favourable bounce. Toronto rugby fans are familiar with this format as the Wolfpack played all their home games to close out the season (partially due to the RFL, and partially due to renovations to Lamport Stadium).
Speaking of the Wolfpack, the one thing that many Torontonian rugby fans feared was the home schedule. Would there be a conflict between the Arrows and Wolfpack home games? The great news is that there won’t be. All 8 Arrows home games are slated for Sunday, whereas the Wolfpack traditionally play on Saturday (the 2019 RFL Championship schedule has not been released yet). This is great news as it will allow rugby fans to support both clubs. As I said before, rugby is not a popular enough sport in Toronto for the union versus league divide that is so prominent in England. The Arrows and the Wolfpack should be working together to increase the popularity of rugby as a whole within this city and country. Having schedules that allow people to attend both club’s games is a step in the right direction.
Below is the full schedule:
The Toronto Arrows have also announced their first 12 official player signings:
Props- Rob Brouwer, Cole Keith, Morgan Mitchell
Hooker- Steven Ng
Locks- Paul Ciulini
Back Row- Peter Milazzo, Lucas Rumball
Backs- Jack Evans, Andrew Ferguson, Kainoa Lloyd, Gaston Mieres, Theo Sauder
Theo Sauder and Lucas Rumball have been outstanding for Canada at the repechage tournament. Sauder created plenty of offence from the fullback position scoring 2 tries against Kenya.
Rumball began the Kenya game on the bench, but his strong play in relief earned him a spot in the starting line-up against Germany. Rumball was able to crash through the German defense and score the game’s opening try.
Keith, Ciulini, and Lloyd are also in France for the repechage tournament, but did not dress in the first two games. Ferguson would also be in France, but a biceps injury has kept him away. All-in-all the Arrows have plenty of international experience with a total of 129 caps within the first 12 signees.
However, 60 of those caps are not Canadian. Fullback Gaston Mieres has scored 13 tries in 60 caps for Uruguay. Mieres was part of the Uruguayan team that defeated Canada earlier in the year to send Canada to the repechage tournament. Mieres is not alone with his import status, as Morgan Mitchell of New Zealand was also among the first 12 signings. Mitchell is a prop with Mitre 10 Cup experience having played for the Southland Stags since 2014. He has also trained with the Highlanders of Super Rugby, although never got into a game. The most unique thing about Mitchell is that he is deaf. At one point, doctors told Mitchell that he might be forced to retire from rugby. However, with the help of a cochlear implant, Mitchell was able to continue with his career. You can read more about Mitchell’s story here. If any Arrows fans are unfamiliar with Mieres and Mitchell, Youtube is always a great place to do a little bit of scouting.
Major League Rugby also released the 2019 kits for all 9 teams. Just like the previous season every MLR kit is designed and manufactured by XBlades. Formed in 1989, XBlades are an Australian company focusing on boots and kits for rugby union, rugby league, and Aussie rules football. The release from XBlades and MLR gave us the first look at the Toronto Arrows kit.
The Arrows made great use of the blue and white colour scheme. The kits are a classic design that features a jersey with a solid base colour and an accent colour on the collar, with the shorts matching the base colour. The socks primarily match the collar colour with some striping near the top completing a very clean overall look. To be honest, the design reminds me of an of All Blacks jersey. Just switch black to white or blue. The interesting thing about the kit is that the jersey and shorts feature 2 different logos. The shorts feature the Arrows logo that the team unveiled with the announcement that they are joining MLR, the jersey itself features an abbreviated version of that logo, with only the “TA” portion present.
The kits also have four sponsors featured on them; Xblades, the manufacturer who will appear on all MLR kits, is featured on the right chest, on the back just under the collar, and on the right leg of the shorts. Honda gets the prime spot on the front of the jersey. On the back, the Landing Restaurant Group will be under the player’s number and owner Bill Webb’s company Waypoint Investment Group will be above the number.
The Toronto Arrows are coming together nicely. They have a beautiful kit, a confirmed home stadium, a schedule, and have begun to put the squad together. More roster announcements will be expected soon. Stay tuned to Jet Weekly and Layman’s Sports for more coverage of the Arrows as preparations for their inaugural season continue.