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Monday Morning Fly Half: The Jonah Awards

Well, we are not quite half way through the season. But at least one team (in this case the Seattle Seawolves) has played eight games. Which means their season is half way done. And given that last night was also a memorable Academy Awards ceremony, MMFH felt compelled to do some Major League Rugby mid-season awards.

We can't call them the Oscars, of course. That name is taken, and is meaningless to rugby in any case (apologies to Oscar Beard). Instead, I am going to honor all-time great Jonah Lomu and call my awards The Jonahs. 

With a exciting and at times surprising Week 9 in the books, it's time to give out our mid-season Jonahs.

Best Director

The Director is ultimately in charge of the whole operation, he has the final say in how the product comes out. He has what can be an unenviable position of owning responsibility for everything, but lacking the direct power to fully control anything. Yet we have several good candidates through the first half. 

And the Jonah goes to:

Sam Harris - Austin Gilgronis

Sam Harris has this team sitting atop the West at the (almost) half-way point, sporting by far the best point differential in MLR. They have arguably made the most gains from last season, particularly in the attack. The rabid defense they were known for in 2021 is mostly still in place.

After staring 5-0, however, the Gilgronis have lost two on the bounce. Some defensive pressure in the backfield has short-circuited Austin's early success in attack design. If Coach Harris wants to win the full-season Jonah, he'll have to come back with an updating attacking philosophy or technique that is prepared to counter what is emerging as a shortcut to beating Austin.

Best Supporting Actor  

The supporting actor plays a unique and important role in any production. He isn't the focus, nor is he often the decisive element in moving the ball forward. Yet, when called upon to play his part, he can deliver a performance so impactful that it elevates the whole.

And the Jonah goes to:

Ed Fidow - Rugby New York

Fidow stormed onto the scene, scoring the game winner late in New York's first contest. He has proven formidable on the wing, combining speed with exceptional power and balance. His ability to absorb hits while keeping both run and pass options alive has paid huge dividends for New York so far.

But defenses are becoming wise to the Fidow danger and are devoting a lot of resources to stopping him out wide. That in itself is an advantage for NY, as it creates space in the middle into which they can attack. But they've had less success exploiting that space lately than they had feeding Fidow early. A better attack elsewhere will give Fidow a bit more breathing room to maximize his value.

Best Actor

The star of the show. The MVP. The Best Actor carries the weight of his team and handles it with aplomb. He executes the vision of his director and empowers and responds to his supporting actors.

And the Jonah goes to:

Beaudein Waaka - New England Freejacks

Waaka has taken an attack that looked bereft of ideas and given it life through sheer force of will. His movement to fly half unlocked an attacking potential that was virtually non-existent in prior iterations of Freejack line ups. He kicks, he runs, he passes, and he has a strong instinct for the game that puts him in right place at the right time.

It falls to Waaka now to instill that same combination of skills and smarts into his teammates, who currently rely too heavily on his contribution. He has been a one man opportunity creation machine, but he's yet to guide his team into being a 15-man opportunity creation machine. Only then will their current success be truly sustainable. 

Interlude - Will Smith / Chris Rock Slap

No Jonah Awards is complete without a little drama. The Toronto Arrows smacked Rugby New York yesterday on a cold, sleety afternoon in Hoboken. I had the (dis)pleasure of seeing my home side fall in a sloppy effort replete with handling errors. Having had the opportunity to jump into sole possession of 1st place in the East, it was a surprising and unpleasant affair for the hometown fans.

Best Picture

When all is said and done, only one production can take home the big award. Do I mean the MLR Shield? No, I mean the mid-season MMFH Jonah. The award for best on-field product through 7-8 games.

And the Jonah goes to:

New England Freejacks

Now sitting happily in first place in the competitive East, and having offed all their closest competitors in Atlanta, New York and Austin, this award is New England's to lose going into the back half. Only a narrow loss to LA Giltinis, who are themselves emerging as a more threatening second half specter, mars the New England record. 

But heavy lies the crowd. They will be the target of every challenger going into the home stretch. How will they fare as favorites instead of underdogs? That remains to be seen.

Another Successful Award Show

That's all for the mid-season Jonahs! Tune in at the end of the year (maybe) for a full season version!