Just after the Raptor’s November break, Glendale completed their first round of player re-signings as they prepare for second season in the USA’s professional Major League Rugby competition.
“We are pleased to announce the return of many of our players to the 2019 season,” Director of Rugby Mark Bullock said. “As always, we wish the best of luck to those players who have moved on to other teams or pursuits. Our focus now will be on melding the returning players with the skill and special characteristics of our new signings, which should also be announced soon.”
Among the returning players, the Glendale Raptors have re-signed starters Shaun Davies< (scrumhalf) and William Magie (fly-half), both having returned home recently after a round of international test matches with the USA Rugby Men’s National Team against the Maori All-Blacks, Samoa, Romania and Ireland.
At 29-years-old, Davies is thought by many to be the best scrumhalf’s in the country and is widely considered a leader both on and off the field for the Raptors. Davies marked his 19th cap with the Eagles last weekend against No. 2-ranked Ireland after completing HIA protocol following a harsh upper body dump tackle that took him out of the USA’s November 3rd match against the Maori All-Blacks in Chicago.
Eagles and Raptors teammate Magie was also a consistent force for the Raptors in 2018. A dual citizen of the U.S., Will was born in London and captain of the University of Leeds rugby team. He moved to the U.S. in 2016 to start playing professional rugby for the then-PRO Rugby side Denver Stampede. He made the switch to Glendale shortly thereafter and has been a Raptor ever since.
At just 20-years-old, Mika Kruse has also re-signed for a second season with the Glendale Raptors. Kruse had an amazing 2018 with the Raptors, moving quickly up the ranks from the Raptors U-23 Elite Development Academy to being a regular starter for the Raptors team. Kruse went on to accompany coach David Williams to Uruguay as a member of the U.S. Selects side in October, proving himself ready to suit up for the USA Eagles clash against the Maori in early November.
Another player to rise up through the Raptors Academy program is 22-year-old Carlo De Nysschen, who returns to add depth in the scrumhalf position for the Raptors. De Nysschen, who moved from Pretoria, South Africa to Glendale in 2017, proved he was ready to play at the next level and earned a spot on the professional side near the end of the 2018 MLR Season.
Props Kelepi Fifita, Blake Rogers and Luke White have all re-signed for another year in leading the Raptors scrum in the front row, while Connor Cook and Dakota O’Neil will look to remain dominant in the back row for the Raptors in 2019. These five players average just 25 years of age, yet their performance on the pitch speaks for itself. Each of these athletes played rugby throughout high school and, for the Australian-born Luke White, started playing the sport as early as primary school.
Rounding out the returning Raptors are Ata Malifa, Harley Davidson and Chad London providing a depth of experience and speed in the back line. Malifa is a family name well-known in the U.S. rugby world, as both he and his twin have played not only for the Raptors, but have also represented on the USA Eagles team. Davidson, winger or fullback and London, a South African-born rugby player who came to the States in 2009 to attend Palmer College of Chiropractic has been with the Raptors since 2013.
Additional players from the 2018 Raptors squad are expected along with a host of new talent for the 2019 Major League Rugby season which will feature a 16 game schedule commencing in January 2019. The first regular season home match at Infinity Park in Glendale is anticipated to be on March 2, 2019.