This time last year the Delaware Black Foxes were looking back on their season with just one win in the team’s inaugural year in the USARL competition.
By Julian Clarkstone
Fast forward to today and the team is not worrying about next season, they are focusing on their clash against the Philadelphia Fight in round two of the playoffs.
The trip to Philadelphia was earned after a nerve wracking encounter against the Northern Virginia Eagles last weekend.
The Black Foxes scraped through in round one of the playoffs, winning 24-22 in a match that saw the lead change five times.
A significant reason behind the team’s success and newfound ability to win tight matches has come through the stability of the team in their second season as well as the team’s philosophies that involve working together as a unit.
Coach, Bjorn Haglid, has been working to ensure that core values are instilled in his team, which has reaped rewards quicker than many probably expected.
“I really stress the team and not the individual, because without the offloads, hard hit ups and looking down field, no player scores.”
“The philosophies are the same that I have done for all of my past teams, which is to force the players to know everyone’s name at the beginning of each practice and to make the practices meaningful and progressive.”
“Lastly, and probably most important, is to have team events outside of the game,” Haglid said.
His team is going to have to work even harder as a unit in their next playoff game, as the Philadelphia Fight are undefeated in 2016. Including defeating the Black Foxes in their earlier contest this year.
Two players who have another reason to win against the Fight (not that they need it), are former Fight players, Kevin Wiggins and Ian Ferguson.
“These two individuals are the main reason why we have a team in Delaware. They knew that I tried to start a rugby league team back in 1989,” Haglid stated.
There’s definitely more than just Wiggins and Ferguson who are ready to step up though, as the Black Foxes have several key players that they’ll be looking towards in order to pull off what would be deemed an outstanding victory.
One of which is Martwain Johnston, who is definitely hitting form at the right time after scoring three tries in the team’s narrow win against the Eagles last weekend.
“He was a standout wide receiver at University of Delaware and caught touchdown passes from Joe Flacco.”
“His size and speed are intimidating, you can ask anyone that he has tackled or run through,” Haglid exclaimed.
The Black Foxes also have three import players who have been helping their teammates to improve throughout the year, being Adam Brodigan from Ireland and Drew & Shay Neist from Australia.
“The knowledge that they have all shared with their teammates have been awesome. Drew and Shay might be the most talented blokes I have ever had the fortune to coach,” Haglid said.
The Black Foxes have transformed their team in the space of one year, but they are also helping to transform another important part of their club, being their home ground of Eden Park Stadium.
The stadium was looking very run down due to budget cuts, which was a far cry from its glory days of being a popular location for football and soccer playoffs.”
The Black Foxes have made sure this turned around, restoring several parts of stadium.
“First was to repair the scoreboard that hadn’t worked in 5 years, since the beginning of this year we put down 500 pounds of grass seed and aerated the soil, it was a great team event.”
“During the season we spent around $1,000 to repair the showers and bathrooms at the pool house that is located on the property and this off-season we will need to do some fundraising to buy a new pool pump, otherwise they will not be able to open the free city pool next summer.” Haglid stated.
It’s clear that the Black Foxes are taking leaps and bounds in their quest to be the best Rugby League club in the USARL competition, which could be propelled forward with a win this weekend.
They know their opposition will be tough, but they are also aware of their own talent and are confident going into the match.
“We are pretty healthy and did not lose any players in the match against Northern Virginia (Eagles), plus we have the biggest men in the league in the center and gifted players on the edges, so we have to pack our lunch boxes and are ready to play,” Haglid said.
The USARL wishes the Black Foxes the best of luck moving forward, which starts at 6pm this Saturday against the Philadelphia Fight at Garthwaite Stadium, Conshohocken, PA.
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