Mack takes rugby experience to new pro league

Seattle, Wash.

Phil Mack already has a rather impressive rugby resume.

And now the 32-year-old member of the Toquaht First Nation will soon be able to list another accomplishment.

That’s because earlier this month it was announced that Mack has been signed by the Seattle Seawolves, a professional franchise that will participate in the inaugural season of the Major League Rugby (MLR) in 2018.

Mack, who lives in Victoria, will not only play for the Seawolves but will also serve as the club’s assistant coach.

He does not anticipate his dual roles with the Seattle squad to be a problem.

“It’s all about the work you put in beforehand,” Mack said.

Besides, he’s already proven he can successfully be a player/coach.

This year he was a player and an assistant coach for the BC Bears. The British Columbia men’s amateur club had an undefeated season and ended up winning the Canadian Rugby Championship.

Mack will be joined in Seattle by some familiar company. Tony Healy, who is also a Victoria resident and served as the Bears’ head coach this year, has been hired to be the Seawolves’ head coach.

Mack is keen to take his talents to a new professional circuit now.

“I know I’m excited to get into something new,” he said.

The first MLR season is expected to run from April until June. But Mack expects to relocate to Seattle at some point in January to find a place to rent and to prepare for the season.

He will maintain his Victoria house that he shares with his fiancé and return home when his schedule permits.

All seven of the franchises expected to compete in the MLR’s first season are based in the United States. Besides the Seawolves, those who have been accepted into the league are the Houston Strikers, Utah Warriors, Colorado’s Glendale Raptors, Texas-based Austin Elite Rugby, NOLA Gold from New Orleans and a club from San Diego, which has yet to announce its name.

It is expected that clubs will play four home games and four away matches, resulting in an eight-game regular season schedule.

That will be followed up by playoff action, which will consist of semi-final outings and a championship final.
The Seawolves will be playing their home contests at Starfire Stadium, a facility located in Tukwila, which is about 15 kilometres south of Seattle.

Adrian Balfour, who is the Seawolves’ CEO and team co-founder, is hoping the team can average between 2,500 to 3,000 spectators per game for its inaugural season. Starfire Stadium has about 4,500 seats but can accommodate about 6,000 spectators if temporary bleachers are added to the mix.

Balfour is also thrilled Mack has agreed to join the Seawolves.

“He’s got a tremendous work ethic,” Balfour said. “And he has a focus and intensity beyond anything we’ve seen.”

As a player, Mack has starred for both the Canadian men’s rugby (15 per side) team as well as the national men’s rugby sevens club.

He’s appeared in 43 international contests with the former team and an additional 52 matches with the latter.
Mack also has some brief pro experience. In 2014 he trained with Osperys, one of the top pro squads in Wales. Though he didn’t play in any games with Osperys, during his pro Welsh stint Mack did suit up for four matches with one of its feeder clubs, Neath Rugby Football Club.

Since the Seawolves’ schedule for 2018 has yet to be released, Mack is not sure whether he’d be able to return to the Bears next year as well. The Bears’ season would run from late spring through the summer months.

“If it lines up correctly, it’s something I’d consider doing again,” he said.

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