Sam Windsor’s four years in Houston may constitute the most successful MLR career to date. Year five will see him start a new chapter.
Sam Windsor moving from Houston to RUNY has largely been discussed from the SaberCats’ angle. How he fits with the Roosters is far more interesting.
The RUNY back line is the complete opposite of Houston’s. The expectation is that Andy Ellis will return at 9, and Ben Foden will take another year at 15. This pairs with a pack filled with Eagles. Dylan Fawsitt, Nick Civetta, Nate Brakely, Benjamin Bonnasso, and Hanco Germishys make this a team a dog fight week in and week out. This side has Championship ambitions.
Sam Windsor stepping into the 10 jersey in place of the departed Dan Hollinshead could be less successful than some want to admit. Hollinshead is 26. Windsor will turn 35 during the next season. After a year where Windsor looks like he’s lost a step, there’s a real chance its simply not coming back.
On attack, this team largely plays through Ellis at 9. The former All Black pulls the strings. (In fairness, Ellis will turn 38 during the 2022 season.) If RUNY maintains that identity, Windsor looks more like the second play maker 12 concept we’ve seen grow around the world.
There’s also the possibility they push Windsor to 12 and use Harry Bennett at 10. (Caveat: I’ve yet to hear confirmation of Bennett’s return.) That would create an elite level passing game that could exploit RUNY’s underappreciated wing talent. With Foden remaining a strong ball runner on attack, Windsor could be a backfield distributor instead of being forced to make plays with his feet.
Defensively, the picture is significantly less rosy. Windsor is a poor defender at this point in his career. At very best. Houston tried playing him at both 12 and 15 to give him more attacking space. Both spots saw him tackle as if he were a scarecrow. Windsor is a large step down from Hollinshead when his team is out of possession.
I’d be laying my own trap if I didn’t acknowledge Windsor’s kicking. He’s still one of the league’s best from the tee. The downside: RUNY will have a different penalty philosphy than Houston had. The SaberCats focused on building scores in an attempt to stay in games and hope his foot would get the job done with the clock in the red. RUNY is a Championship side focused on building playoff position. This team needs bonus points. Bonus points require tries. The RUNY pack is built to win line out balls. A penalty in Houston goes for the sticks. A penalty in New York goes into the corner. Not to mention, he’s replacing a kicker in Hollinshead that rivaled him for the ‘best kicker’ title.
Sam Windsor remains a great locker room presence. Its good for the league that he keeps the boots on. However, its hard to see him moving the needle in the right direction for the Roosters. Barring other signings that would better complement Windsor’s weaknesses, the signing is arguably a step back for a side that Major League Rugby needs to succeed.