So far it’s mixed reviews for the new DI club structure. Three leagues kicked off this weekend, and one is underway. Here’s how they are looking:
In the Northeast, everything started just fine, and the games seemed, for the most part, to be competitive.
(Being competitive is nice, but if it’s being competitive at a low level of performance, that’s not helping.)
The league itself will provide each team with 12 league games against well-regarded clubs. Whether all will think themselves well-regarded at the end of it remains to be seen.
The Mid-Atlantic is perhaps the best example of how a consistent and well-populated league doesn’t mean everything. MARFU has been what everyone wants – a competition where everyone shows up and clubs play eight or nine meaningful games – but the result hasn’t been what they hoped, as only one team made it into the top 16, and that team, PAC, was beaten convincingly by New Orleans.
The response? Drop the bottom two teams from the competition and put them in DII, and then play a 14-game season with eight teams. The games weren’t pretty this weekend, on the whole, but they serviced and should at least get players meaningful games in the spring.
The Midwest started a week before, and they’ve finally fixed things. We now we that all of the clubs look like they belong, and that’s a start.
And then there’s the West. This was a terrible shame of a first weekend. After hearing rumors that the Denver Highlanders were out of DI, they were part of the only game to actually be played – Boulder beat the Highlanders 28-10. The other games didn’t get played. Provo and the Utah Islanders both had to cancel, leaving the Denver Barbarians and Glendale Raptors to play each other in a friendly.
At least they could do that, but any talk of any league being worthy of the name has to have teams show up.
The West league is already a shade too small, so it cannot afford to lose players. But more than that, the DI club leagues are supposed to be for the very best players and clubs, and if they can’t provide games, you will see clubs that are ready to play move out.
Currently three more leagues are set to start in the coming months – Texas, Southern California, and Northern California.
But there remain rumblings that this level isn’t good enough for the best players, and, by extension, the national team. Life University has no competition to play in except the Elite Cup. Seattle-OPSB has a hand in the British Columbia leagues. SFGG has its second side in DI and will pursue games in the proposed West Coast Cup.
The West Coast Cup will attract more clubs, as well, perhaps threatening the Southern California league, as well.
As for the leagues in play right now, the overwhelming consensus is, a good schedule is nice, but starting in early September is a stretch. Most teams have had only a few practice sessions, and many are still waiting for players - especially Eagles or those who had a busy summer in 7s - to come back. That might force them to work toward better depth, but it will also serve to pack more rugby into a packed schedule that is - and we need to remind ourselves of this - completely amateur.