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Monday Morning Fly Half: Five Bold Predictions 2022


 Ruggers! Countrymen! Visitors from abroad following the MLR! Lend me your eyes!

Welcome back to another season of Monday Morning Fly Half. As always, I appreciate you spending a little time with me on Monday mornings. And with the 2022 season quickly approaching, it’s time to revisit one of the classic Monday Morning Fly Half columns. Bold Predictions.

I will remind you that these predictions are purposely bold, meaning that most folks would probably find them unlikely to happen. That’s the fun of it. I first gave bold predictions in 2019, and I’m happy so say that both the 2019 edition and the 2020 edition were pretty good, in retrospect. 2021 is a different story. Real strike out in 2021. Hopefully, I can get rediscover my success with this the 2022 edition.

The Lonestar Republic Rides Again

It’s been a tough go for Texas teams thus far. Zero playoff appearances. Austin have faired a bit better, but have also added problems with the local rugby community to the mix, as well as ownership/branding changes. Houston have simply failed to compete, despite the stellar play of fly half Sam Windsor. This year, the expansion Dallas Jackals join the fray, having pushed back their entry by a year.

I think this is the year for Texas. Probably not the Jackals, but expansion teams have generally played pretty well in the young league. Still, weather it be Dallas, Austin or Houston, I predict two teams from the Lonestar State will finish in the top half of the West, and at least one will make the playoffs. 

I just see a good combination of factors coming together at the right time, new coaches, some personnel changes, some new vibrancy, that sort of thing. In a league with great parity, I think that’s enough to push the Texan teams over the hump

Fabulous Dabulus

Mike Dabulus started to raise some eyebrows last year. Playing primarily at full back for Old Glory, he put in an all-around solid campaign. Solid enough that the New Jersey native made his debut for the USA Eagles in the RWC qualifiers last year.

But now, with Kiwi Jason Robertson heading to France, Dabulus is poised to take over fly half duties. I predict that he does, and he has a fantastic season doing it. Only 25 years old, Dabulus has still not reached his prime. Now in the professional setting with an international cap to buttress his experience, I think he’ll really come into his own. Look for him to receive MLR First XV honors at fly half at least three times this season.

Shaken and Stirred

Last year, perhaps my biggest whiff was predicting LA would have a bad debut year. That was…not a good prediction. They dominated like no team has dominated before, and they walked away with the shield. Will I be dumb enough to call for their demise again? Yes I will be.

Australian legend Matt Giteau returns to lead a heavily Aussie side on a quest to repeat. However, last year’s head coach does not return. Instead, enter Stephen Hoiles. Now look, Coach Hoiles has plenty of top level experience to leverage into a successful coaching career. But he’s basically a peer to Giteau, and that troubles me. Additionally, I think as the season went on in 2021 some of the smoke and mirrors got figured out by the rest of the league. Their play at the end of the year was still great, naturally, but they weren’t scoring nearly as effortlessly as they were in the beginning.

Add in a pinch of complacency after last year’s championship, and I see LA ending the regular season outside the top two in the West.

Born in the USA

In case you missed it, Scott Lawrence unexpectedly departed his role as head coach for Rugby ATL. Word is, he had some artistic differences with Rugby ATL’s new ownership group. Lawrence, exit stage left.

For the reigning champs of the East, that could be a devastating blow. The East, as I see it, is WIDE OPEN. We’ve had coaching changes, ownership changes, major personnel changes, even boldly I wouldn’t dare predict how the East will shake out.

But I will predict this - Scott Lawrence becomes coach of Team USA. I don’t know if it will be men or women, 15s or 7s (probably not sevens). But Lawrence was capped as an Eagle in his playing days, and has already coached the Under 20 team to a tournament victory, as well as Life University to a national championship. Meanwhile, all of the USA national teams except arguably Women’s 7s are facing a down period. Coaching changes are on the come, and Lawrence is an ideal candidate. He’ll be in the Stars and Stripes as a head coach by year end.

Press the Attack

Look, we’ve had a lot of coaching changes. LA, Houston, Atlanta, Dallas, and New England all have new skippers. I think that lends itself to some really high scoring games. 

Defense is a team effort, constantly. It requires tremendous coordination and understanding of one another. Attack can be a more individual or small group effort. As such, given all the new coaches, I am predicting we shatter previous scoring records this year. By the end of the regular season, we will have surpassed the previous average points/team/game record by at least 25%.

That’s it folks! Check back at year end to see how I did, and enjoy MLR 2022!