Toronto Arrows Announce Return of Sheppard, Signing of New Trio
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TORONTO, ON – The Toronto Arrows are pleased to announce a tenth group of significant signings ahead of the 2022 Major League Rugby season.
The club is excited to confirm that lock Mike Sheppard is returning for the upcoming campaign, and that the Canadian international forward will be joined by Australian back Matt Hood, second-round MLR Collegiate Draft selection James O’Neill, and Senior Arrows Academy graduate Mitch Voralek.
Wing / Fullback | Sydney, Australia
Hood, 27, joins the Arrows from Australian Shute Shield side Sydney University. The 5’8”, 170lb back spent four campaigns with Australia’s oldest rugby team, suiting up for a pair of two-year spells with the Students across 2016-2017 and 2020-2021.
Hood’s time away from Sydney University was spent with Australia’s national sevens team, where the pacy back featured in 25 matches over seven tournaments on the World Rugby Sevens Series, scoring nine tries.
Flanker | Cochrane, Alberta
O’Neill, 23, arrived at the Arrows earlier this offseason when the club acquired his rights via a trade with Los Angeles. He was taken 26th overall in the 2021 MLR Collegiate Draft, becoming the third Canadian to be picked in the selection event.
The flanker is a graduate of the University of Victoria, where he notably captained his Vikes side to the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship title in 2019 alongside Arrows 2021 first-round draft pick Logan Martin-Feek.
The 6’, 230lb breakdown specialist has featured for Canada at two World Rugby Under-20 Trophy tournaments, first as an under-ager in 2017, and again in 2018 with the captaincy role.
O’Neill is freshly off captaining the Pacific Pride in British Columbia’s Coastal Cup, where he helped lead the Rugby Canada national development academy side to a second-place finish (4-1-1 record) in the inaugural year of the competition. The Alberta native played his grassroots rugby with the Calgary Canucks.
Lock | Brampton, Ontario
Sheppard, 33, returns to the Arrows for a fourth season after featuring in 32 matches (25 starts) for the club since 2019.
The 6’3”, 245lb lock leads the franchise in several statistical categories, including tackles (326), dominant tackles (22), and carries (258). Sheppard has accumulated 1,109 carry metres, 14 lineout takes, nine tackle breaks, seven offloads, five linebreaks, and one lineout steal over his three years with the team. His eight tries are the most amongst forwards in club history.
The bearded Canadian’s impressive performances throughout the club’s inaugural season landed him a spot on the All-MLR 1st XV in 2019.
Sheppard has earned 11 caps for Canada since making his international debut against Kenya in November 2018, starting five matches and scoring one try. He represented Canada at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The forward is a graduate of the Ontario Blues senior men’s provincial program and the McMaster Marauders post-secondary program, and played his grassroots rugby with the Brampton Beavers and Stoney Creek Camels.
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Fullback | Waterloo, Ontario
Voralek, 24, is in line to make his MLR debut in 2022 following his graduation from the Senior Arrows Academy.
The back enjoyed a standout four-year university career at the University of Waterloo from 2016 to 2019; in each of his four seasons with the program, Voralek led the Warriors in scoring and was named an Ontario University Athletics all-star each of those seasons. He also earned OUA Player of the Year honours in 2018, topping the provincial post-secondary league scoring chart with 124 points through four tries, 37 conversions, and 10 penalty goals.
The 6’, 195lb prospect was then selected to join the Senior Arrows Academy in 2020, becoming a member of the club’s inaugural class of senior development athletes.
Most recently, Voralek started for the Arrows XV at the Rugby Rally this past October, helping to guide the home side to a 57-10 victory over the Atlantic Selects.
The back has featured for the Canada Maple Leafs Sevens national development program, is a graduate of the Ontario Blues senior men’s provincial program, and played his grassroots rugby with Waterloo County. He was named Rugby Ontario’s Senior Provincial Player of the Year in 2019.
“We’re excited to be adding three new, big additions to our side in 2022, and to be reinforcing our forward group with the return of Shep,” said Mark Winokur, Toronto Arrows Chief Operating Officer and General Manager.
“Matt is a dynamic Australia sevens player who has a Canadian passport and brings pace and attitude to our back three. James has been a leader on every team he has been a part of, and will be a fierce competitor every time he steps on the practice or game field.”
“Shep is an original Ontario Blue and Arrow and knows what it takes to win at the top level in North America. Mitch is a gifted athlete who we see having a big upside in a professional environment.”
The Arrows have now signed 36 players ahead of the club’s 2022 MLR campaign.
The club will be making additional signing announcements in the coming weeks as 2022 season preparations continue to build, and will begin its fourth campaign in North America’s top-flight professional rugby league with a road match against the Seattle Seawolves on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022.
2022 season ticket memberships are now on sale. Packages for the club’s seven Toronto-based home matches at the 4,000+-seat York Lions Stadium start at just $70.
About Toronto Arrows Rugby Football Club:
Established in 2018, the Toronto Arrows Rugby Football Club is Canada’s first and only professional rugby union team.
Competing in Major League Rugby, the team is equipped to compete against top-tier North American professional club teams, providing emerging Canadian talent with enhanced and more frequent opportunities to hone their skills at an elite level.
For more information, visit https://torontoarrows.com/
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