Expansion team in South Conference
Based in the Sunshine State’s southwest, the Copperheads RLFC will likely play their home games at the Sarasota polo, rugby and cricket grounds.
Founder Curtis Goddard says he started the new club for several reasons.
“I want to do my part in growing the game for both men and women,” he said. “I want to introduce the rugby league community to southwest Florida talent, and build a grassroots organization starting with a local age grade competition around southwest Florida.”
Goddard’s footballing background includes rugby league, union and sevens. Earlier this spring, he played for Division II rugby club Naples Hammerheads after playing for Division I union side Dallas last season.
That followed a stint with the Tweed Heads Seagulls in the Queensland Cup competition in Australia. Goddard caught the attention of the Seagulls’ scouts while playing for the Can-Am Grizzlies in their big 60-4 victory over the Latin Heat and was offered a contract to play with the feeder team to the NRL’s Gold Coast Titans in 2017. His Australian connections also include time with the Yass Magpies in the Canberra Raiders Cup competition in 2016.
Before league took him to Australia, Goddard played for the Boston 13s, as well as the Boston Wolfhounds and Boston rugby clubs.
Establishing a brand-new team hasn’t been without its challenges, recruiting players being one of them.
“I have been all over Facebook recruiting Hammerheads and FGCU Eagles rugby union players that aren't playing 7s and that I have personally connected with this past season,” continued Goddard. “Even without league experience, I thought several union players from the area would make a great fit for rugby league.
“The only experience we will have on the pitch this summer is experience from our high-profile players Roderigus Ceasar (Narooma Devils/Wests Magpies) and Sterling Wynn (Narooma Devils/Toronto Wolfpack finalist & Wigan Warriors trialist).
“Then, of course, Peter Garlando who played rugby league at Townsville University in Australia reached out about dropping in and playing some fullback for us on his way from England to Canada this summer.”
Goddard says the Copperheads have expectations for their inaugural season, including learning the basics, establishing a winning culture, making line breaks, completing sets, playing good defense and having fun.
“Copperheads club culture is going to be one that is hard working and coachable,” he added. “What is coachable? Coachable = humble + checked ego + learners + positive (HELP).”
And as for the club's long-term goals?
“Build up enough grassroots support to fill the MLS/multi-use stadium they plan to build in southwest Florida.”
The South Conference competition kicks off on the first weekend in June.