Win or lose this Saturday against the Fight, the Boston 13s have already been victorious both on and off the field.
By Stephen Williams:
This time last year, the Boston 13s were at the bottom rung of the ladder looking back over a forgettable season that couldn’t end quick enough. Talent was fragmented and heavily diluted thanks to sharing what little depth existed with their new sister club Oneida FC.
Fast forward to present day and the 13s could be making history this weekend as they challenge for their first ever Championship final that win or lose will be played on Boston home soil.
This past week I caught up with Dustin Cooper, Boston 13s Captain and Five-Eighth (Former NRL player with Melbourne Storm & Newcastle Knights First Grade Player) who was quick to share his experiences in Boston and why he believes this has already been a successful year.
USARL: Dustin, big game this weekend. How are the preparations coming along.
Cooper: So far so good, other than the recent injury to Jesse Pearce (Broken leg) we haven’t had to contend with too many injuries this season. He’s a big reason we’ve made the playoffs this year. The improvement in his game is outstanding. He’s young though, so he’ll recover well, work hard in the offseason, and hit the ground running in 2013. Other than Jesse, the boys are fit and ready to fire on Saturday.
USARL: What brought you to the 13s and playing in the USARL.
Cooper: I’ve been playing Rugby League since I was five years old and found myself suffering from burnout when I was in the thick of my career. An opportunity to play Rugby Union in both Japan and France exposed me another side of life that went well beyond playing sport. I enjoyed the benefits of living in different countries and cultures and decided the USA was next of my list. When some friends suggested I check out the USARL, I approached a few clubs where Boston was quick to pounce and the rest is history.
USARL: That’s a big change from the level you’ve been accustomed to.
Cooper: It was more about the experience overall. I wanted to live and play in the States where both would be a new experience.
USARL: So what’s been the biggest surprise as a part of this new experience?
DC: It’s easily been the enthusiasm of the players wanting to learn as much as possible. We are talking about top-level athletes that in the beginning didn’t know the game but they have all the athletic qualities that I am use to.
USARL: How do you teach players that can’t possibly relate to your reactive needs on the field?
Cooper: I consider myself extremely fortunate to be coached by some of the greatest names and equally I played with and against modern legends in the game today. These experiences have allowed me to draw from and present to in a manner they can hopefully relate to in their world of sports. The manner in which they’ve responded has led us to the finals.
USARL: Heading into the semi-finals, how has this experience rated compared to your expectations going in?
Cooper: Expectations have been surpassed. I have been blown away with the rapid rise in skill level week to week. The potential for some of these players in really encouraging. An example is prop Shane Begin who with only 6 games to his name, has proven to be a quick learner. At 6’6” and 250lbs, he’s the biggest guy on the 13s roster. His obvious size combined with an aggressive attitude has meant opposition teams have struggled to contain him all season.
USARL: How does this team compare to the team that lost to Jacksonville in Round 4
Cooper: We’ve come a long way since the Jacksonville game where the mental conditioning was the missing piece. Hindsight, it may have the best thing that could have happened as we decided to test the waters with more complicated plays and routes of which the boys have also stepped up another level. Should we get the chance to play the Axemen, they will see a different team and one that’s much more prepared.
USARL: In your opinion, what’s the future of Rugby League in the USA look like?
Cooper: I believe it’s only a matter of time before it becomes successful. My heart is back in the game and in a way that I didn’t anticipate. I would like to be more involved and know that one day I had a small part in making it successful.
USARL: Any plans after the season?
Cooper: There’s a good chance I will return to France for their Winter season and then who knows from there. I love Boston and could see myself living there and being involved in Rugby League for years to come. Right now we’re not done yet and I am looking forward to this weeks and game and hopefully one two weeks from now.
The semi-final game between (2) Philadelphia Fight vs (3) Boston 13s kicks off at 3pm, August 11 – Alapocas Run State Park, Field 2, 4351 Weldin Road, Wilmington, DE