2011 - Year of the Slayers?

With the USARL season officially underway, had a chance to catch up with DC Slayers coach Danny Hanson.
2011 - Year of the Slayers?

1)  With Round 1 under your belt, how does the team look this year?
First off, let me say that I am excited to be coaching the Slayers this season.  Execution in week 1 went well.  We made a few mental mistakes and were lucky that Oneida were not able to capitalize.  We’re addressing the concerns in training, but some of it I account to first game jitters.  Since the Eagles withdrew from the 2011 comp and several of their players came over to the Slayers, there has been a familiarization period for the lads; however, after the performance on Saturday night, I’m confident we now have a solid foundation and will only get better as the season progresses. We’ve also been fortunate to have three outstanding players from other teams move to the DC area; Jack Dunn who was week 1 Man of the Match from the New York Knights, Trevor Peterson from the Jacksonville Axemen, and Joe Pontak from the Boston 13’s.  These inclusions along with the Slayers core will definitely turn some heads this season.  Our focus is to take the field on August 27 as one of the teams playing for the USARL championship and I believe we can achieve that goal.

2)  When polled by all the teams, the Slayers were picked to come in 3rd this year.   Who do you believe are the teams to watch out for this year?
We got a good look at most of the teams during the very successful Philadelphia 9’s and as you know, the competition that day was fierce.  Based on what we saw I’d say that our toughest match will be against the Warriors since they made it to the finals and gave the Fencibles an exciting match.  Of course we have to also include the Axemen.  They are a fit, disciplined team and always a tough opponent.  We’re fortunate to have them both traveling to us this season, so I have to give us an edge for the home field advantage.

3)  Are there any Slayers rookies that will raise a few eyebrows this year?  What's so special about them?
That’s a tough one because I’m amazed by the talent we have this season.  Most of the lads have a few seasons of league under their belts so I’d have to go with John Young and Dave Parmiter.  John is an oddity in American Rugby having only played League.  At the wing, he has the speed to keep pace with anyone in the USARL but hits like a prop in defense.  His field presence allows him to make quick decisions on the fly that usually turn into a scoring opportunity. For the 2011 season, John was elected Slayers Co-Captain by his peers.  Dave is an all around utility player with union and league experience who can come into a match as a back or forward, take control, and be equally effective no matter where he is placed in the lineup.  His hard running up the middle is difficult to contain and rarely does he miss an opportunity for the big hit in defense.

4)  Tell me about your Aussie imports Aaron Cook and Troy Smith in the halves.  What do they bring to the table and how has the team responded to them being here?
Aaron and Troy have spent their careers with the Mullumbimby Giants in NSW and the Gold Coast Titans under 20’s where they played alongside several current NRL players.  Of course, any import with experience is going to elevate your game and that is exactly what we’ve gotten from Aaron and Troy.  They arrived in the States two days before our first match and we held a Friday night training session to get them acclimated to our game play; the lads took to them immediately.  Aaron and Troy are true team players that bring control and expertise to our game.  Their humbleness and sense of camaraderie is evident when you meet them. This season we’re playing Aaron at five-eighth and Troy at fullback.  Aaron’s presence was felt instantly when in the opening minutes he hit John Young on the wing for our first try.  Troy was a field marshal, directing the defense and making bit hits.  It was clear to me that the lads are going to rise to their level during this season’s matches.

5)  How often does the team practice and what are some of the key areas you address in practice?
We train two days a week, Monday and Wednesday.  I’ve noticed that the teams that do well in American Rugby League are the ones that are fit and have the basics down solid.  In the preseason, I put together a training regiment for the lads and it was clear they took it seriously.  With the brutal conditions in which we play, fitness is the key as it’s difficult to execute a game plan if the lads are dog tired after 10 minutes.  So, I build our training sessions to focus on basic skills while keeping the lads constantly moving.  It’s a plan that will pay off during the hot summer matches.

6)  You were runners up in this years 9s Cup Final.  How do you explain the disappointing finish in your final game?
The Fight is always a scrappy opponent.  I talked with team captain Tim Douglas after the loss and we came to the same conclusion.  Philadelphia has the ability to get you off your game and that’s what they did to us.  We got off of our game plan and were beaten.   We’re stressing sticking to the game plan this season no matter what is thrown in our way and are working on the mental aspects of staying focused regardless of the situation.

7)  As a coach, is their anything different about participating in the USARL that was missing in the past?
Open communication.  In the past, teams never knew exactly what was happening on any given day.  The USARL has been open door since day 1and communicated expectations for teams, coaches, and officials.  I know whom to contact if I have a question and have been offered RLIF training opportunities.

8)  What can we look forward to for this weekends Matchup against the Titans?
Like everyone else in the USARL, we were impressed by the Titans in week 1.  They are a disciplined team and Stuart and Paul have done a great job getting them ready for competition.  I don’t want to give anything away except to say that we’ve prepared a game plan to attack areas that we saw during their match with the 13’s.  We’re expecting a tough, fast paced match with a few surprises throw into the mix.

9)  Any upsets for this weeks remaining matches?
Now that week 1 is complete, we’re going to really see what teams bring to the table.  Every match is going to be tough, but with Jacksonville, New Haven, and Philadelphia all hosting at home I don’t see any upsets this week.

10)  Any sponsors you wish to give a plug?
Mackey’s Public House is our prime sponsor for the 2011 and 2012 season so we want to say thanks to them for their continued support.  We also want the thank Miller Lite, Coors Light, Stoli Vodka, Blue Moon, and Washington Sports Clinic.