By Stephen Sheehan, FRU Media Intern
With nearby UCF winning back-to-back D1-AA championships in 15s, the city of Orlando has become a rugby haven of sorts. However, the Golden Knights aren’t the only successful rugby club to emerge from the area, as the Orlando RFC continues to put itself on the map.
Established in 1970, the Orlando RFC competes in the USARFU South Division II and Division III. Orlando also features the Lady Griffins, who were established in the fall of 2005. A staple in the local community, Orlando RFC is active in charitable organizations and hosts many different events and socials.
Daniel Gordon and Evan Haigh serve as co-coaches. Gordon coached Orlando’s 7s squad last summer before Haigh joined this summer. So far, the results have been fantastic.
The club claimed the men’s division title at the Todd Miller 7s in Orlando just two weeks ago, putting on a great show for their home crowd.
“I was really happy with our defense and the players’ commitment in every game,” said Haigh.
According to Haigh, the team trains twice a week with a focus on 7s game awareness and decision making. The early results have been promising, including a huge win over UCF at the tournament.
“Our standout game was the dominant win against UCF in the semi final,” Haigh said. “Sam Nelson scored three fantastic tries in that game.”
While Orlando’s success at Todd Miller 7s was certainly a step in the right direction, there’s still plenty of work to be done.
“Our weakness was the ability to focus throughout the tournament,” Haigh said. “We are still learning how to play 7s, so there are lots of things we can improve on.”
Ironically, Orlando was once the powerhouse 7s club in the state. The team is looking to build a strong and balanced club in order to get back to that mantle of Florida’s premier 7s club, Haigh said.
Helping Haigh in that quest are several key players, including captain Will Doherty and the speedy Daniel Forshee. Those players, along with 15s head coach Eugene Louw stand out as three impact members of the 44-year-old rugby club.
Orlando is lucky to have a coach with Haigh’s experience. He has played for several clubs across the world, including the ACT Brumbies U19s, Canberra Vikings, Currie RFC in Scotland, Darlington RFC in England, OMBAC in San Diego and Seattle OPSB.
His coaching resume also includes several high-end stops. Haigh coaches the Bermuda Mens 7s team at the 2013 NACRA 7s Tournament and also served as a coach at the USA Rugby Academy for both the men’s and women’s teams.
With a strong coaching staff, a dedicated core group of players and a hunger to reestablish themselves as a great 7s team, Orlando RFC has a clear direction for the summer. Earning the championship at Todd Miller 7s is simply the first step in what promises to be an exciting summer of 7s rugby.