A fan’s thoughts on the Ottawa Aces Elite Tryout
On April 23rd a call to arms was issued to all Canadian athletes looking to pursue a career in Rugby League. It is now known that ten full time contracts are on offer in the elite level tryout.
As some of you will know remember the Toronto Wolfpack followed this route signing a number of players and eventually letting them go. Citing visa issues as the reason for letting them leave till eventually the clubs only Canadian player left the club at the end of the 2018. Eventually rejoining the Wolfpack in early 2020 after stipulations were added by the Superleague clubs about how a small salary cap waiver could be used.
Eric Perez has stated that apart from the first four months of the year, the Ottawa Aces will be based here in Canada full time.
Looking at the setup moving forward, the club needs to take a hard look at how they want to set up the team and what they would like to achieve in its first season. At the press conference mentioned in my earlier article, it was stated that the club would like to exit League 1 as quickly as possible.
Team set up
From Eric’s own statement I would have to believe the team will be weighted with experienced players at the control positions of Full Back, Scrum Half, Stand Off, Hooker and Loose Forward
These are places that could possibly be filled using the overseas quota as it takes years to learn the main control positions of Rugby League. There are some names that spring to mind and one has played for the Wolfpack;
Scrum Half Rhys Jacks
The former Canadian national team skipper was a firm fan favorite with the Lamport faithful. He had lots of time for the fans and would always be seen signing autographs and taking selfies long after the rest of the team had departed for the dressing room. Even though he has pulled on a Wolverines jersey, he would occupy a spot on the overseas quota as he qualifies as a heritage player. He would bring the experience at scrum half that would be needed with a young possibly inexperienced team around him
Stand Off Ryley Jacks
As you can probably guess Ryley is Rhys Jack’s brother and would bring a wealth of NRL experience having played for the Melbourne Storm as recently as this season. Like his brother, Ryley could play Scrum Half, Stand Off and Hooker. The big question mark is, could Ryley be convinced to give up on his NRL career. A move that would see him move from Rugby League at its highest level in Australia to the UK Rugby Leagues third tier in Championship 1 to possibly play alongside his brother;
Full Back Morgan Escare
Full back is an extremely tough position that has to be learned over many years. You are the last line of defense and usually the first player to run the ball back after the opposition kicks on the last tackle. You have to have safe hands under the highball along with nerves of steel. Morgan with his wealth of experience would be a great addition to the Ottawa Aces at Fullback and is also an experienced goal kicker having been entrusted with the kicking duties for the French National Side. With the demographic split in Ottawa recruiting a French speaking player will help broaden the appeal of the team in the City. Also with the City of Gatineau just a short drive across the Ottawa River and Montreal a short two and a half hour drive. Morgan could be a great asset in the team’s marketing department in helping broaden the team’s appeal to the French speaking demographic but also to the province of Quebec.
I believe that they could go with a good up and coming young hooker and loose forward. With the Elite combine coming up they could take a chance and maybe stay close to home for either of the positions and save the final two overseas quota spots.
Hooker, Loose Forward
One name that springs to mind for the Loose forward position is currently playing his club rugby on Canada’s west coast. Canadian Wolverines skipper Scyler Dumas.
Scyler hails from Salmon Arm, British Columbia and is the current Captain of the Wolverines, the Canadian National Side, having led the side on a recent tour of Serbia.
Like most players in Canada he began his career playing Rugby Union at high school, Salmon Arm Secondary. After moving to Vancouver, Scyler joined the Vancouver Rowers Rugby Club. He began his Rugby League career with the Vancouver Dragons Rugby League Club in 2015 and fell in love with the sport. He would also enjoy success as the Dragons advanced to the 2015 Grand Final losing to the Coastal Cougars.
In 2016 Scyler decided to broaden his Rugby League horizon and headed to Australia to join the Beenleigh Pride of the Brisbane Second Division competition. Scyler would spend one season with the Pride before returning to the Vancouver Dragons for the 2017 season.
Scyler is a leader and respected Captain of not just the Wolverines but also the British Columbia Representative team, The BC Bulldogs. He also led the Western Canada team at the inaugural East vs West representative games held under the Dome at the Lamport Stadium in Toronto. He would go on to be named the Western Canada man of the match.
In the modern game, the role of hooker has become a pivotal position; he has to have the distribution skills of halfback and the pace off the mark of a winger. You don’t have to be a big guy player to play hooker anymore as proved by former Leeds player Rob Burrow.
For this reason the role could be cast to a halfback or specialist hooker dependent on availability of player personnel.
One halfback that springs to mind is Brantford Broncos very own Greg Wise. Hailing from Norfolk county, Greg like Scyler, started in Rugby union. Eventually being introduced to the sport and Brantford Broncos Head Coach Christian Miller in 2016.
Greg took a brief hiatus from the sport in 2018 to concentrate on starting his own business.
As 2019 came into view, Greg would return to the Brantford fold although losing the Ontario Rugby League title to Toronto City Saints, he would also catch the eye of Henry Miers the recently appointed head coach of the Easter Canada Rugby League team.
Cast in his favorite position of stand off playing beside Canada Wolverines’ regular Steve Piatek at scrum half and Matty Wyles at hooker. They would form a potent midfield combination guiding the Eastern Canada Team to a strong 44-14 points.
Greg would be named as the man of the match for Eastern Canada.
Although the Elite tryout is only for Canadian Athletes, I myself have encouraged non-Canadians to apply, as the club needs a full squad of between 25-30 to have a fair chance at exiting the ultra competitive BetFred Championship 1 at the clubs first attempt.
I have long been a believer that the Canadian provincial competitions will hold a rough diamond who’s been toiling away in relative anonymity. Or maybe somebody from the United States could turn heads if given the chance.
One rough diamond could be the name of Monte Gaddis who many of you will remember from his journey as a Toronto Wolfpack trialist. He would eventually lose out to Joseph Eichner, Nathan Campbell and Quinn Ngwati.
Hailing from Cleveland Ohio, Monte grew up in a low income neighbourhood and instead of circoming to the streets of his neighbourhood, his chosen pathway was sport.
He would play NCAA Football with the University of Maryland as a running back and later as a middle linebacker at Towson University. He would also spend time playing for the Indoor Football League with the Iowa Barnstormers
After many attempts to gain a tryout with his hometown Cleveland Browns, he would turn his attention to the CFL and after workouts with the Hamilton Tigercats as a running back, Rugby League was never far from his mind.
Monte is a self confessed student of the game and isn’t afraid to spend time abroad to learn. Having spent time with Red Star Belgrade in the Balkan SuperLeague as well as Dewbury amateur side Shawcross Sharks.
He is also a respected footwork training coach having trained over ten clubs in the UK, from the Batley Boys amateur Rugby League club to BetFred Championship side; the Dewsbury Rams.
His training motto is “Slow feet don’t eat”
Since his previous stints in Rugby League he has worked hard to improve. Working on his physical fitness and his passing skills as he strives to make the conversion from the explosive short bursts of American Football to the sustained level of physical stamina needed to play Rugby League.
Monte sees himself as a role model and wants to show children from neighbourhoods he grew up in, that there is more to life than street gangs and drugs.
As the plans for the team at this time are unknown, I would have to assume that they will have a playing squad of between 25-30 players split over a first and second team. As for where that second team will play is unknown but certainly it would make sense to see if that team can join the USARL. It would keep the competition for first team places hotly contested. Any new player will not learn this sport unless he is given the chance to actively play the game. I will use an ice hockey analogy “riding the pine” sat in the stands at TD Place.
To all the Athletes who will be invited to compete for their dream shot: If you get the call, show the world what has been available right here in Canada and the USA.