|The Player of the Week Award is brought to you by Rhino Rugby, makers of high-quality, made-in-America rugby balls, rucking pads, tackle bags, and scrum machines.
Hunter Leland is one of the new guys at WE Rugby. He didn’t play there last year, and he, in fact, is playing for his third team in as many summers on the West Qualifier circuit. He played with the Dallas Harlequins in 2011 and the Denver Barbarians in 2012.
But Leland’s quickly become one of WE’s biggest contributors and leaders, and for his two-try performance in the final of the Kansas City qualifier last weekend, he’s our men’s player of the week. Leland dotted down both scores against his former team in the Barbarians, picking up a swollen, bruised eye lid for his efforts. Maximo DeAchaval rocked Leland pretty hard in a second-half ruck.
“I figured he would,” said a jocular Leland. “Before the game our parents were hoping we’d take it easy on each other, but I knew that wouldn’t happen.”
Leland, at 25, is one of the oldest members of WE Rugby, which is comprised mostly of current college students or recent graduates. In Denver, the former Texas A&M All American was one of the young pups.
“It’s kind of weird, but I’ve been around these guys for a long time, so I don’t feel any older,” said Leland, who is relishing his role as a leader.
Leland had planned to move back to his native Texas after spending a year in Denver, and he reached out to WE Rugby coach and founder David Pope. Pope helped Leland land a job, and Hunter’s now one of only a couple of Texas residents on WE Rugby.
In fact, most of the team is comprised of Arkansas State players who either commute for tournaments or live in a five-bedroom housed in The Woodlands for the summer. Leland says it hasn’t been too difficult to break into the ASU clique and create team chemistry.
“They make it pretty easy. They all are funny talkers, but I’ve been around quite a few of them now so it’s a fun group,” he said. “We’re all kind of in it for the same thing. My story may be different going home, but everyone came to Houston for this 7s team, so it’s worked out and paid dividends.”