In their first year of existence, the Utah Warriors fared well in the Rugby Super League, the top level of men’s rugby in the United States. The league recently finished its 16th season. The Warriors went 3-3, falling twice to eventual champion San Francisco Golden Gate.
I recently caught up Warriors owner Sean Whalen. See my short Q and A below:
The Mort Report: A record of 3-3 is a pretty solid start for a new team in the Super League. Do you feel it was a success? How would you characterize the season?
Sean Whalen: Absolutely I feel it was a massive success. We wanted to win the championship and bet everyone, but that will have to wait until next season. This year was a success because it’s obvious the Warriors garnered significant attention both from the rugby community and the media. Rugby in America is on the verge of exploding and my entire purpose for starting the warriors was to be a part of building that future for the sport in the U.S. I believe we absolutely accomplished that in just one short season.
TMR: I read an article on Rugby America’s website that was very complimentary on how you run your team. What specifically makes you different from the other teams in the Super League?
SW: The Utah Warriors were assembled with the goal and focus of getting the best players from Utah on one team and running an organization that is “professional” in it’s focus. NFL players don’t have to pay dues or travel to play another team, they focus exclusively on being the best football players on the field. I wanted the Warriors to be a team that could provide the top-level players, and players developing their talents and an opportunity to focus on playing great rugby and not on how they were going to have to raise money to buy jerseys or shorts. The Warriors provided opportunity for players to be part of a professional, respectable rugby program that is setting benchmarks for the future of paid professional rugby in America.
TMR: What’s there to be done in the offseason for the Warriors? What are you planning for next season?
SW: The offseason is letting our players heal! We had a lot of injuries this year because we literally had our first practice as a team 60 days before our first match. We didn’t have time to get in shape physically, and we paid the price for that. This upcoming season will be dramatically different. The Warriors will start training camp Oct. 1. Our goal is having both the Warrior Super League team and Warrior Division I team in top physical shape for next season.
We have also been working on warrior training facilities and playing facilities. We are excited to be able to have world-class, state-of-the-art training facilities for the Warriors opening in the fall of 2011.