Arrows Academy Set to Take Flight in 2022 Season Opener
TORONTO, ON – After more than two years of patient planning, stop-start training, waiting, hoping, and ultimately having to go back to the drawing board due to pandemic-driven setbacks, the Toronto Arrows Senior Academy is finally set to play its first match against a fellow Major League Rugby academy team when the young side travels to Boston to take on the New England Free Jacks Academy on Saturday afternoon.
“We’re very excited to finally get a chance to play a game,” said Cory Hector, Toronto Arrows Academy Director and Head Coach. “We initially got our Academy program up and running in January of 2020, but with all the turmoil that the pandemic has brought over the past two years, we’ve had to be patient to arrive at this point.”
The Academy’s 2022 campaign kicked off in early February, with under-18 to under-23 athletes training regularly at two regional sites in Ontario (Guelph, Kingston) and one in Quebec (Montreal). Training throughout the first month of the new season has largely centred around skills development.
“We’ve selected players for this first match primarily based on positional needs, as well as recent performance,” said Hector. “Saturday’s squad composition will feature an even blend of players from the Ontario East, Ontario West, and Quebec sites, as well as some additional players from the Arrows senior team.”
Hector notes that the main outcome he’d like to see from this first match is “the application of the skills they’ve been working on indoors so far this season.”
“We not only want to see the work ethic we’re trying to instill in our Academy athletes, but also the enjoyment that comes from playing in our first official academy game against another MLR academy. This is a moment to be celebrated.”
Four spring matches have been confirmed for the Arrows Academy in 2022, with home-and-away fixtures booked with New England and New York. The club is also in the final stages of scheduling a two-game series in Halifax that will pit the Arrows Academy against the Atlantic Selects and the Canada West Selects in late May or early June.
The full Arrows Academy 2022 match schedule will be announced in the coming days.
“This Academy season is further proof of concept of our regional model – that training in small groups spread over a large geographic area and coming together for games can generate positive outcomes on the field,” adds Hector. “We’re looking to use this season to build continuity in our program, ensuring that our athletes are developing over two-to-three-year periods and preparing them to progress to the senior team.”
Despite the shutdowns the Arrows Academy has faced over the past two years, the program has still graduated three players to the Arrows, with Cole Brown, Brandan Ferguson, and Mitch Voralek all earning senior contracts for 2022.
“Growing that number of players who come through the Academy to our senior team is a long-term outcome of ours, and the opportunities to accomplish this goal will be aided by the likelihood of having full, normal seasons under our belts in 2022 and beyond,” said Hector.
Saturday’s match, played at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Quincy, MA, precedes the clash between the Toronto and New England senior sides, and will kick off at 12 p.m.
The game will not be streamed — UPDATE: the Free Jacks have announced that the match will be streamed on their Facebook page — however fans can follow along with updates shared via the Toronto Arrows Senior Academy’s Twitter channel @ArrowsSrAcademy.
The Arrows Academy squad will be announced on Friday afternoon.
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