Celebrating the 150th anniversary of Boston’s oldest club and the USA’s first ever organized football team, the recently resurrected Oneida FC will take the field in 2012 with a player pool likely to surprise many.
It’s hard to fault Oneida FC for how their inaugural season turned out. The team, thrown together just minutes after Pittsburgh withdrew from the league, only had a few months to prepare for the 2011 USARL season. The result was an Oneida club that struggled off the field as much as they did on it.
Founder Mikhael Shammas quickly realized that if Oneida had any chance of survival then they needed to operate independently from their established brother club the Boston 13s RLFC.
Andrew Laine, one of the survivors from that ill-fated 2011 campaign, has stepped up and taken the reins to make sure that history won’t repeat itself. This year Oneida will see a domestic player pool filled mostly with local athletes, the majority of which are new to the game of Rugby League. Recent try-outs have been a great success with top-level Union players from local Boston clubs and ex-collegiate athletes trying Rugby League for the first time.
In addition, Oneida are in the process of negotiating with three import players (the maximum allowed for the USARL) for key positions that will guide them around the field.
The first of which is captain and coach Dustin Cooper. Cooper, a former Australian NRL player , has played A-grade for the Melbourne Storm, Newcastle Knights and Cronulla Sharks. He will be supported by Tony Duggan, a former UK Super League player for the Celtic Crusaders and the UK’s top scorer in 2006 and 2007.
“What a difference 12 months can make. It has been a tireless effort since last September but the work is finally paying dividends” says Oneida GM Andrew Laine. “It has been my prerogative since taking over as GM to erase the memory of the 2011 season and move forward into the 2012 season in a positive and organized light.”
He continued, “We are also meeting with two ex-professional players now living in Cambridge and heard about the Club and are interested in coming on as assistant coaches to help strengthen our domestic talent both on and off season. In addition to having a full coaching staff, we hope to have a dedicated Strength and Conditioning Coach and a Team Manager.”
The signing of Dustin Cooper and Tony Duggan will surely send a message to the other teams league, assuring them that Oneida are looking to avoid the tag of cellar dwellers and begin a new era for the USA’s oldest club.