Major League Rugby’s docuseries on the 2021 Austin Gilgronis is a six part weekly serial on FS2 and available to stream on The Rugby Network after a 24 hour delay. We’ll be providing a weekly recap of our key takeaways.
One of the hardest episodes of any series to create is the second. Pilots have a clear job to do; sequels need to take the pilot’s foundation and begin the transition to the larger story. Inside the Scrum’s second episode might not have pushed the narrative too far forward, but a few seeds were sown that could prove fruitful in the coming weeks.
Adam Gilchrist’s teams live very different lives. While the Giltinis were training in Hawaii during the preseason, Austin was mountain hiking. Its a small look into how a group from several countries is brought together in a small time frame, but helpful glance nonetheless.
This week gave us a look into Sam Harris’s communication with individual team members concerning roster decisions. We see him informing individual players that are being added or dropped. Its an interesting look into each player’s reaction and the personal relationships Harris has with each of his men.
Perhaps the most interesting tidbit was Harris discussing with the team’s leadership group that he’d started talking with Ruben de Haas about a potential deal. He’s immediately questioned about how a de Haas addition would impact the team. Was he coming to train? Would he be on the field? Would he be starting immediately, or would he have to work for his spot?
When the de Haas move was announced, we immediately had questions. What was the value in signing a star that would have moved on before the playoffs? Wouldn’t it be better to develop the current group that could be present for a playoff run? Ruben de Haas is an emerging world class player. If healthy and integrated, no roster in Major League Rugby would deny Ruben de Haas a spot. We listed the signing as one of our things we wanted to see on the show. It could be an intriguing result.
Bryce Campbell, Austin’s captain, finally received a proper introduction in the second episode. While we assume he’ll feature in future episodes, it felt more like a bit cut from the pilot that needed to be included. There was no real payoff, and he had no real impact on the episode.
Its impossible to look away from the Mooneyham injury at the end of this week. The knock initially looked minor, but it was clearly a serious issue that superseded rugby. It was a bit brave to show it. They should be applauded for the honesty toward an issue that has plagued other American sports, especially American football.
So, why was it relegated to ‘The Bad’?
Concussion is a huge talking point in the global rugby community. MLR clearly knows it has a health issue on its hand. It still hasn’t taken the necessary steps to address it. Major League Rugby still lacks true Head Injury Assessment protocols. With all due respect to team medics, the league must take steps toward matching and exceeding the protocols of other leagues, both in global rugby and other American sports. It will likely require an independent neurologist on site, just like the NFL has. It will not be cheap. Quite the opposite. But proper HIA protocols are more important than any other addition. Its bigger than growing the salary cap. Its bitter than adding a TMO. It needs to happen immediately.
After the sunny series start, we saw the reality of injury and team mates having to hold each other accountable. The red zone issues that plagued Austin started in this time frame. There’s potential tension brewing over de Haas. The Mooneyham injury should strike a real nerve. If the series capitalizes on all these stories, we have plenty to get excited about.